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Women On The Line: Meet South Mississippi’s female law enforcers

By Elaine Stevens and Dana Sleger//


While many Gulf Coast women are donning their high heels, femininely tailored business suits, and Pandora jewelry, there is a segment of the South Mississippi female workforce putting on up to 20 pounds of gear that may include bullet-proof vests, duty belts complete with guns and handcuffs, and a badge. No two work days are the same. Never underestimate them, because they handle the unpredictable. They receive the same training as men, and their goal is identical: To come home in one piece. Meet the ladies — and they are just that — sworn to serve and protect us on our Mississippi Gulf Coast.


Lt. Heather Dailey:

‘It is terrible to witness the pain that one person can inflict on others’

Not too many 5-year old Collins, Miss., girls grow up wanting to become a police investigator above all else, but 44-year old Gulfport Police Lt. Heather Dailey did. Policing now for more than 20 years, Dailey began her career on the force of the University of Southern Mississippi Police Department in 1995. Her real ah-ha moment came when she did a ride-along with Hattiesburg Police during one of her criminal justice classes. “It was a crazy night of fight calls, traffic stops, and a person with a gun, a real eye-opener for me,” Heather says. “It gave me a real idea of what police work was going to be.” Needless to say, her career has never disappointed her expectations. In fact, her favorite quote is President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.”

Exhibiting her skills in a wide variety of police duties over the years, from patrol to working as an undercover narcotics officer, Dailey says she finally achieved her childhood goal in 2000. “I applied for a position in criminal investigations and became a detective,” she says. “Investigating primarily felony crimes, I often worked crimes against persons and several homicides. Undercover (work) was fun, but being an investigator was the best!”

Far from blasé about the difficulty of the job, Dailey describes police work as rewarding, yet demanding with constant physical, mental, and emotional challenges. “It gives you a sense of purpose and responsibility,” Dailey explains. “It’s multi-tasking and thought-provoking.” But, she says the hard times really hurt. “It is terrible to witness the pain that one person can inflict on others. It is heartbreaking to see children and the elderly abused by those who are responsible for their care.”

Speaking of care, Dailey admits in her own family as a mother of two there have been sacrifices, missing birthday dinners and special events, especially since husband Matt is also a Gulfport police officer. “My daughter Madison was born while I was a detective. I was always on call and was called often to work in the middle of the night,” Dailey says. “Madison asked me one day why I no longer left in the middle of the night. I never realized she knew I was leaving and that it had become ‘normal’ for her.”

Not surprisingly, Dailey has continued to climb the ranks with a slew of promotions. Her supervisor, Deputy Chief Chris Loposser says she has excelled in all of the various facets of her career. “Lieutenant Dailey has been able to not only adapt to each, but to reach great success.” Loposser goes on to say, “All of her titles bore a different, but equally significant sacrifice to her personal life which she endured without hesitation or regret.”

Gone are the middle of the night calls and investigations. For the past three years, she has been the Officer in Charge of Administration in the Support Division, where she spends more time in the office supervising personnel issues, grants, and the court liaison and coordinating special projects. She has certainly earned it, but she does insist on reminding people of the following: “Police officers are your community. They are just like you, but have taken on the task of upholding the values that make us a community.”



Chief Deputy Phyllis Olds

‘We are also human. A lot of times the images don’t leave at night’

Award-winning Chief Deputy Phyllis Olds of the Stone County Sheriff’s Department has been wearing the uniform for 17 years. Through her tenure she has served as a night jailer, DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) patrol officer, investigator and animal activist — the latter of which is not only a duty she upholds professionally, but a passion she holds personally. The Humane Society of the United States presented Olds with the 2013 Humane Law Enforcement award for her work in protecting animals from abusive situations, including shutting down a puppy mill and recovering 117 dogs from a hoarder. Olds is “mom” to four “fur babies” of her own.

In her current position as chief deputy, she is responsible for a number of reports, keeping transportation in the county moving, handling court matters and, of course, checking on abused or neglected animals throughout her jurisdiction.

Intuitively, Olds felt destined to become a law enforcement officer. In fact, her college aptitude test confirmed her innate abilities to pursue a career in that direction. Happy she made the decision to join the Stone County Sheriff’s Department when she did, the 58-year old deputy has been rewarded justly. In 2013 she won the honor of the Crime Stoppers Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. “We are here to protect and serve,” Olds says. “Whether it’s changing a tire or just hugging you and telling you it’s going to be alright.”

Olds, like most of her colleagues, insists that the most common misconception about women in law enforcement is the fragile female myth. “… that a female deputy can’t protect herself in a bad situation.” She states adamantly, “We have the same training as the male deputies.”

Her belief that helping others reach their potential is the highlight of her criminal justice career while the downside is painful. “The hardest thing is child death investigations or having to notify a person about a death.” Olds’ sensitive yet strong nature is a testament to her ongoing success in law enforcement. “We are also human. A lot of times the images don’t leave at night,” she explains. “I would like everyone to remember that we’re the only thing between them and the monsters!”  

It is apparent Phyllis Olds is a powerful force in Stone County, one that her community can count on, no matter what. If you visit her Facebook page, you’ll see her strength with your own eyes as one of her many credos becomes evident, “I’ve fallen, cried, been angry, and afraid. But even when I was hurting I always found a way to keep going. A strong person never gives up.”



Motor Officer Nicole Shavers

‘When I retired from the military, I still felt the need to continue serving, now as a police officer’


Ocean Springs Motor Officer Nicole Shavers clearly remembers when her love affair with motorcycles began as a child growing up in Mount Clemens, Mich. “I would always ride on the back of my dad’s motorcycle,” she says. “I made the decision 11 years ago to learn to ride.”  

When she was going through the initial process of becoming a police officer, she was asked what she really wanted to do in law enforcement. “My answer: a motor officer,” Shavers says, “due to my love of riding and because you really do not see to many female motor officers.”

In fact, the 41-year old is the first female motor officer for her department, and according to one of the captains within the Ocean Springs Police Department, Shavers may very well likely be the only active female motor officer in Mississippi. “Going through the motor school was one of the hardest courses in my career,” Shavers says. “Great instructors pushed me throughout the course.”

Even though she holds the honor of “first” and “only,” as regards her current position, Shavers says the most rewarding thing about her 2 ½ years with the Ocean Springs force is being able to give back to the community.  “You have to treat people with respect; that goes a long way.”  

According to Chief Mark Dunston, Shavers does just that. “Nicole spends a lot of her free time with children and groups, as well as providing public outreach on child safety seat usage and seatbelt safety.” Dunston says her performance and great attitude led to her receiving Officer of the Year Award in 2015. She is also one of the department’s juvenile forensic interviewers.

And the hardest part of the job? “Putting your personal feeling aside in certain situations and reminding yourself at the end of the day that you are human.”

A 20 year Navy veteran, Shavers began her law enforcement career with the Mississippi Department of Transportation Commercial Vehicle Enforcement and had a six month stint in corrections with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department. “When I was in the Navy I did a tour as a member of the military police/auxiliary security force,” she explains. “When I retired from the military, I still felt the need to continue serving, now as a police officer.”

Like so many working women, Shavers says balancing a demanding job requires a solid marital relationship. Married to Gregory for six years, she is the mother of 16-year old Kierra. “My husband is my rock,” she says. “He often has to play both parental roles due to my having to work late at the last minute, or having to work a special event or holiday.”

She recalls one memorable Mardi Gras when her traffic division rode in one of the parades, allowing the children to sit on the motorcycles and take photos. “One little girl yelled out, ‘Look, Mommy! It’s a girl police officer.’ When she was sitting on my motorcycle, she told me that when she grows up, she wanted to be a police office on a motorcycle too,” Shavers explains.  That young girl may very well find herself following Shavers’ credo by writer Christian Nestell Bovee, “Doubt who you will, but never yourself.”


April Thompson

‘My children check on me through the night until they go to sleep’


“Every day that Officer April Thompson puts on her ballistic armor, straps a gun to her side, hangs a badge over heart, and says good-bye to her children is another day she has proven her worth to her community.” That, in one articulate sentence, is how Biloxi Police Chief John Miller describes his colleague, 37-year old Patrol Officer 1st Class and mother of three April Thompson. Her story, like her fellow female law enforcement officers above, is awe-inspiring.

Thompson says she discovered her passion for criminal justice in elementary school when a police officer spoke to her class about how he viewed the community he worked for and what he found important in safety to help pass on to kids. “I later experienced the police coming to my house during my parents’ divorce,” she explains. “My sisters and I were so scared and upset, but this officer was so calm and controlled.” She goes to say that the officer didn’t leave until she and her sisters were alright. “At that point I knew I wanted to be that calm for someone else in their times of grief.”

From the sound of Thompson’s job description, she is doing that and much more. Working first as a 911 operator, dispatcher, police desk clerk, negotiator, and Rape Aggression Defense instructor, Thompson reports to calls in her current position involving anything from a lost pet to a shooting. She is fully aware of the dangers of her job, as Miller explained. Saying good-bye to her children each day is for her the hardest part of the job. “I have always been aware of the fear of the unknown possibilities of my upcoming shift,” Thompson says. “My children check on me through the night until they go to sleep. I tell them we live in a very good community. I want them to have faith in the good in people and not to focus on the negativity.”

That’s where she believes she is rewarded for her work as a police officer. “I am teaching my children as I learn and grow as a person by facing my fears and adversity head on,” Thompson explains. She says the qualities of her courage, integrity, and faith as she does her job help her children apply principles to life of how to treat others with equality.

The word “team” is an essential part of Thompson’s vocabulary and success in balancing career and family. “Raising my children to be independent and to work as a team around the house means spending more time together, enjoying each other,” she says as she also elaborates on her role as a supportive team member of Biloxi’s Police Department. “I assist my co-workers when I can whether it be as a backup unit on a call or grabbing a meal for the booking officer. My responsibility to my co-workers is just as important as my service to the community.”  

Like Chief Miller says about Thompson, her ethics and morals are her guiding lights, as are her sense of humor and compassion. For her, Czech philosopher Vaclav Havel says it best: “If I have accomplished anything good, then it’s mainly because I’ve been driven by the need to know whether I can accomplish things I’m not sure I have the capacity for.”


For a listing of more South Mississippi female law enforcers, see page 49-51 of our digital magazine.


Special thanks to Allen Toyota for sponsoring Women on the Line, a three-part series recognizing women answering the toughest challenges in their communities.