Prince George’s County Officer LaVonne Dickerson said she feels as though she was born into law enforcement. Her mother’s 22 years in the department gave her a first-hand look at the potential career path from an early age.
After deciding to follow in her mother’s footsteps and graduate from the police academy two years ago, Dickerson and her mother, Cpl. Loretta Williams, both of Brandywine, became the first and only black mother and daughter sworn officers in department history, according to Sgt. Sonya Rorls, a county police spokeswoman.
“I loved watching her do her job and seeing how exciting it was to do. I was like, ‘I want to do that. This looks fun,’” said Dickerson, who is a part of District 4’s patrol bureau in Oxon Hill. “No call is the same call. I enjoy being able to talk with the citizen’s in the county, living in the county, knowing the county and just helping people. That’s my main focus: helping.”
Today, there are only three mother-daughter pairs out of the department’s estimated 1,500 officers. Cpl. Mike Rodriguez, a county police spokesman, said having mother-daughter pairs serving in the same agency is rare. He said father-son pairs are more common.
Williams, who said she would have supported her daughter no matter what profession she chose, said not a day goes by without thinking about her daughter and the concern for her safety.
“I’m always nervous. I have always said that once she was cut loose and into patrolling that I would not listen to the station that she was on because I do not want to hear her. As police officers, when we’re in a distressed situation our voice changes, our tone changes, and I never want to hear that,” said Williams, who serves in the Criminal Investigation Division.
Dickerson noted that the largest and most important lesson learned from her mother is to be safe.
“Mostly, she’s taught me safety and to be aware of my surroundings,” she said. “She’s been an excellent mother guiding me in the right direction even though she’s been very stern on me. I really do appreciate that, and I thank her all of the time. I love her for that. She’s my mother. She’s my best friend.”
Lt. Stephanie Frankenfield, an 18-year veteran with the recruiting and background division, is the mother of Officer Rebecca Frankenfield, a three-year officer in the patrol bureau, who said her exposure to the career persuaded her to go into the field.
“I always told them I would never be a police officer, but as I got older I did a lot of ride-alongs and got an internship with the Criminal Investigation Division,” she said. “I found that this is a lot of fun. You don’t always do the same thing all the time.”
Like Williams, Stephanie Frankenfield said she does worry about her daughter’s safety.
“It is a dangerous job. No one ever wants their child to be in any harm or danger, but I wanted her to enjoy her job. This is a fun job, and it’s very rewarding.”
Stephanie Frankenfield said it is common practice for the department to keep family members working in separate divisions and patrols to prevent personal matters from interfering with police duties.
Lt. Sandi Jernigan, a 16-year veteran with the county police department, and her daughter, Alicia Jernigan, a three-year officer in the patrol bureau, are another mother-daughter pair serving in the department.
Alicia Jernigan said many of her family members are in law enforcement so it was an obvious career move for her. She said her mom and other family members were influential in her coming to that decision.
“My earliest memories are sitting around the dinner table talking about police stuff … It was like bedtimes stories that you can’t go to sleep to,” she said. “That’s what made me want to be a police officer, was hearing the stories, the excitement. They made me proud.”
Sandi Jernigan said neither of them thinks about or worries about being involved in a dangerous job, and they consider law enforcement a job and a duty that needs to be done.
“Being the police, this is just life,” she said. “Working the streets or working out here is just normal life for us, and we don’t worry about things like that. I know she’s never alone when she’s working.”
Sandi Jernigan remarked on the sense of pride she has with her daughter walking in her footsteps, something each of the mothers echoed.
“I hope [my daughter] becomes a mother someday just like me and has a daughter of her own to be proud of,” she said.