May 18, 2018 2:47 pm

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom is hosting a special event on May 31, shining a spotlight on women in a variety of criminal justice careers ranging from 911 dispatcher to Superior Court Judge. Attendees will have the unique opportunity to learn more about the inspiration, challenges and triumphs of nontraditional voices of the criminal justice system.

The event will feature a panel of women who will share their experiences working in what many consider to be a male-dominated field.

The event’s keynote speaker is Pierce County Superior Court Judge Helen Whitener, who was appointed to the bench by Gov. Jay Inslee. She brings a wealth of experience to her position after serving as a judge on the Washington State Board for Industrial Insurance Appeals and as a pro-tem judge in Pierce County District Court and the City of Tacoma Municipal Court. She has also worked as a prosecutor and defense attorney. Judge Whitener is the first immigrant-born judge of the court, the second black woman on her bench, and the first black LGBT judge in the state.

“Judge Whitener travels all over the United States and beyond for speaking events, and we’re so lucky to have her come to campus and share her story,” said Criminal Justice Prof. Natalie Durflinger. “I hope students will see that there’s a seat at the table for them, and there are no limits in terms of what they can achieve in the criminal justice system.”

The event will also feature remarks from the following panelists:

  • Maili Barber, prosecutor, Bonney Lake
  • Brooke Bova, public information officer, Washington State Patrol
  • Chandra Brady, police administration, Olympia Police Department
  • Sheena Carr, Community Corrections Officer, Pierce County
  • Jen Knick, 911 dispatcher, Seattle Police Department
  • Melissa Simonsen, prosecutor, Swinomish Tribe
  • Jen Kolb, lieutenant, Tumwater Police Department
  • Kristine Yanez, community service officer, Bonney Lake Police Department

Attendees will also have an opportunity to meet the panelists before and after the event, and ask questions during the discussion.

“It’s so important for young girls – and everyone, really – to see women in these positions in criminal justice,” said Bobi Foster-Grahler, criminal justice program director. “It’s important for people to know that there are opportunities in criminal justice for everybody. The justice system has a place for just about any career path out there.”

A number of recruiters from local criminal justice agencies will also be in attendance, as well as representatives from a number of four-year universities.

The Women of Justice event will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Pierce College Fort Steilacoom Health Education Center, room 302. Anyone interested in attending should register in advance.