In 1987, Palo Alto Police Department Officers Lacey Burt and Alana Forrest, decided to coordinate a small gathering of women at a downtown hotel restaurant to discuss issues related to women in law enforcement. About 20 women showed up and exchanged ideas and business cards. In 1993, Sergeants Burt and Forrest hosted yet another gathering, which was more of a networking and “support group” for women in law enforcement. In 2004, the duo broadened the horizons and held a more formal workshop, including a police panel of women executives. They expected about 40 women to come but soon reached 125 RSVPs with a waiting list. There was standing room only at the event but that did not stop 20 more women who were on the wait list who arrived and pleaded their case to attend. This clearly validated the tremendous need for women in law enforcement to come together, hear each other’s stories in support of one another, train, trade contact information, and create bonds. The duo organized another event in 2005 with over 220 women in attendance and Women Leaders in Law Enforcement gained steam.
In 2006, the President of the California Police Chiefs Association's Steve Krull, heard about the Women in Law Enforcement Workshops and asked Cal Chief’s leadership to put on a statewide conference to promote this initiative. He appointed San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer and Los Gatos Police Chief Scott Seaman to lead the charge. So in late 2006, a one-day event was held at the Burbank Hilton with a theme of “Sharing Strategies for Success.” The hope was to have 300 people register and it was marketed to all law enforcement statewide. Over 540 registered and the event sold out! Rather than making it a one-time event, Cal Chiefs decided to do another one in 2007 in Sacramento and recruited the local police department to help host the event, which is the practice that has continued. There were 675 attendees. The theme was “Sharing Strategies for Success, the Power of Relationships” and the event was expanded to one and half days. Since then, the theme of “Sharing Strategies for Success” has continued, adding a specific focus each year.
- San Diego - 2008, San Diego, “Finding the Balance”
- Burlingame - 2009, “Together–Service with Fortitude”
- Pasadena - 2010, “Managing Transition”
- San Jose - 2011, “Creating Synergy!
- Irvine - 2012, “Strong Together"
- San Jose - 2013, “Leading at Every Level"
- Anaheim - 2014, “The Leader Within You,"
- Sacramento - 2015, “A Decade of Innovative Leadership." This was the 10-year anniversary, which sold out with over 700 in attendance.
- San Diego - 2016, "Sharing Strategies for Success: Courage ● Compassion ● Connection"
Since its inception there have been hundreds of stories of women connecting, supporting, and sharing strategies to navigate this very difficult career. The original purpose that Officers Burt and Forrest had many years ago still remains: to provide excellent training in a supportive, positive, and inspiring way and attendees leave feeling better than they when they came.
*This information was obtained through the California Police Chiefs Association.