First N.H. female chief of police discusses women LEOs

By Virginia Battles-Raffa
Union Leader

LYME, N.H. — Lyme's police chief, Pauline Fields, says she knew at age 19, upon first entering the police force, that one day, she would be a police chief.

Fields was hired in 2000 to become chief of Lyme's police department. She was not aware at the time that she was to become the first female police chief in New Hampshire.

"I think there are a couple more now, but I don't really think about myself as being different or special. I'm just a police officer who happens to be in charge," said Fields nonchalantly. "Recently, I attended a street-survival course in Atlantic City. There were over 150 women from across the country, I was the only police chief. They were all very impressed ... I was so surprised ... I said, 'But you are all here, any of you could be one.' "

The Fields family, her husband and three children, take her position in stride as well. "I asked my daughter once (how she felt about Mom being a police chief), and she said she never really thought about it." Earlier in her career, however, her children did ask her to promise to always wear her protective vest.

"Sometimes they would worry when they would hear what kind of call I was going out on ... They were always aware of the dangerous aspects of my job."

Fields has been in numerous dangerous situations in her 26-year career. "More so in my old job (Westford, Mass.). It was a city. Things are quieter here, not as much goes on."

Fields says listening is an important aspect to her job.

"Police work is a lot about problem solving ... being able to listen to all sides and being able to make good choices about a given situation."

Still, Fields does comes up against situations when a person will not listen to reason, and at those times her training is what keeps her safe.

Being a female officer has not caused a problem so far for Fields. "When a situation has become physical, I've always come out on top, though that isn't meant to be a challenge to anyone," Fields laughs.

Fields does admit that sometimes being a female officer requires her to jump an extra hurdle a male officer might not encounter. "People have a perception of what a police officer should look like and the service they should provide. I tell male officers, you already look the part, now make sure you provide the service they expect. (Looking the part) is one less hurdle for them, that I do have to contend with."

Being a police officer has provided Fields with certain advantages. Her schedule is more flexible, enabling her to be around as her kids grow up. Her kids learned the value of discretion and privacy, "People would stop me in the grocery store to talk and my kids would ask questions and I'd say, 'It's nothing for you to worry about.' "

Sometimes people drop by the Fields' home to discuss a problem. Her children learned early that anything they overheard was not to be discussed outside the home.

"My kids have always been very respectful ... and I think they learned about serving their community," she said.

Fields attributes much of her children's success to upbringing. "We had a good family situation and I think we were good role models, regardless of whether I was a police chief."

Fields does acknowledge her position may have had some influence on her 19-year-old son's decision to follow his mother into the police force. "He switched from fire science to criminal justice, and my brother has become a police officer now, too."

Fields is often chief in the family's household as well, though careful not to belittle her husband's contribution. "I think I am the go-to person. My husband is more cut and dry ... I'm more likely to hear the whole story."

She is the one who teaches the children to drive. "I am a very good driver. There have been some car chases that I have come out of thinking, 'Wow, we're lucky we survived that,' " Fields laughed.

Presently, she is teaching her 15-year-old son to drive, "It's still a little scary (in comparison to the fear felt in a high-speed chase.) ... They both have their own tipping point," she said with a laugh.

Copyright 2009 Union Leader

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