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Breaking barriers
Kat Smith is county’s first female road patrol sergeant

Ivan Foley/Landmark photo

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor

A career in law enforcement was always at the forefront of Kat Smith's mind. The action, the intensity and the responsibility of public safety were among the motivating factors that compelled Smith to pursue a career in law enforcement. The concern that she would somehow not measure up in a male-dominated career never tempered her enthusiasm.

The 35-year-old sergeant is the first female road patrol sergeant in the history of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department.

Her husband, Detective Colin Smith, is also climbing the ladder in law enforcement.

Raised on a farm in Troy, Kan., Sgt. Smith did not shy away from hard work. She credits her competitive nature and a strong male presence in her life for leading her down a road to the call of action.

Over the course of her 11-year career, Smith has had an immense impact on the Platte County Sheriff's Department. She began her career in road patrol, where she responded to vehicular fatalities, reconstructed crash scenes and served as a traffic officer.

Though it was tough learning the intricate details of vehicles, Smith considers herself fortunate to fall into her life's work.

“It can be overwhelming at times, but it is what I like to do,” said Smith.

After years of leading her peers in the number of arrests, Sgt. Smith has earned a reputation in the profession as someone who is willing to tackle anything thrown her way.

“I like to be in the field,” said Smith. “I'm not going to ask the other officers to do anything I wouldn't do. I am usually right there with them” Smith takes her leadership role very seriously. To ensure her team’s safety, Smith teaches defensive tactics twice a month at the Platte County Resource Center.

She also has a pulse on the change sweeping across the county. Folks from neighboring cities and afar have been moving into Platte County. Smith said some of this growth has shaken things up. The intensity of the crimes seems to be increasing.

In a field that operates 24/7, Smith said she works several different shifts and doesn't shy away from the night shift, where it is more common to come across situations such as robberies in progress and domestic disturbance situations.

“I like working nights, because that seems to be where all the action is,” she says.

Smith said her problem-solving skills were really put to the test while serving as the sergeant of the Western Cyber Crime Task Force. The evidence she helped collect ended things badly for 10-15 child predators.

Her co-workers say she played a vital role in the prevention of online child pornography. For over a two year period, she assisted 27 counties in their struggle to combat child sexual abuse.

“Putting some of the predators in jail makes you feel good at the end of the day,” she said.

Smith said she was surprised to hear she scored the notable role of first female road patrol sergeant.

“I don't know if it is a good or a bad thing. I am very happy I 'm back on the road,” she said. “I have put a lot of effort into becoming a sergeant. I don't plan on letting anybody down.”

Along her journey up the ladder, Smith said she did not face a great deal of bias from male police officers. But as many people can imagine, being a woman in law enforcement used to have its challenges. Smith believes barriers have been broken.

“As a woman in this field, I would come to a crash scene or training exercise and be the only woman there. You knew everyone is sizing you up and making sure that you are just as good as they are,” she said.

But Smith certainly demonstrated her competence. Now, she encourages other women to consider a career in law enforcement.

Smith said there is no single reason why a female shouldn't pursue a career in law enforcement. Her advice to other females who are interested in entering the field is: “Don't let anyone tell you no, do not be intimidated and put in the work.”

“We need a lot of good women out here,” said Smith.

Smith acknowledges that in some situations being a female officer certainly seems to help. Children and females typically respond more openly when a female officer responds to the call, especially in cases involving rape or sodomy. Female police officers are also good listeners and connect well with the public, she acknowledged.