(WSVN) - Miami-Dade County is the first in the state of Florida to have four Black female police chiefs. Now we’re meeting the women “Behind the Badge.” 7’s Karen Hensel has this special assignment report.
They are all Black, all women, and they are all top cops — a triple combo that puts Miami-Dade County on the map.
But who are the powerful women behind the badges? We sat down with three of them.
Karen Hensel: “I’m curious, have you guys all met?”
Interim Director Stephanie Daniels, Miami-Dade Police: “Oh, yeah, we are very good friends.”
Meet Chief Cherise Gause of the North Miami Police Department.
Karen Hensel: “So you’re the first Haitian American chief. In the country?”
Chief Cherise Gause: “Yes, so we’re told, yes.”
Chief Gause started her career as a dispatcher with the city of Miami.
Chief Harvette Smith started as a secretary in the 90’s at the North Miami Beach Police Department, where she is now the first Black chief.
Chief Harvette Smith, North Miami Beach Police: “When I originally got sworn in as a police officer, I did say that I wanted to be the first female chief of North Miami Beach Department.”
Chief Cherise Gause: “Nice.”
Stephanie Daniels is the interim director of the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Interim Director Stephanie Daniels: “I did not aspire to become the chief of police for any agency, let alone Miami-Dade Police Department.”
Each of them started at the bottom … and now have hundreds of officers under their command.
But getting there was not easy.
Interim Director Stephanie Daniels: “No matter what rank I had, up until a couple of years ago, I still had to fight for my voice, even by sitting at the table.”
Chief Cherise Gause: “I think there’s always going to be, for women, proving yourself, making sure that people understand why you’re here.”
Across the country, women only make up 12% of law enforcement, and only 3% are in leadership.
Director Daniels created a mentoring group where women help women.
Interim Director Stephanie Daniels: “We text each other, ‘Hey, we’ve got this event, come out,’ you know, so we get a table, we go, we mentor.”
Daniels was thrust into her role on the heels of tragedy. She was named interim director days after former Director Freddy Ramirez attempted suicide.
Karen Hensel: “I’m sure that’s not how you wanted to become chief.”
Interim Director Stephanie Daniels: “I knew I wanted to be in a high-ranking position within the department, but I’d never thought I would be the interim director.”
Karen Hensel: “As a mom, what did you miss out on?”
Chief Harvette Smith: “For my family, Sundays are a big thing. Everyone is at my mom’s house, and I always remember my daughter saying, ‘Mom, you’re never there. Everyone else’s mom is there. You’re not there.'”
Interim Director Stephanie Daniels: “Holidays, games, graduations.”
Chief Cherise Gause: “These positions come at a cost and that sacrifice. Sometimes it’s the family.”
Karen Hensel: “How do you guys make sure, when you walk in the door, that you’re Mom and you’re not chief?”
Interim Director Stephanie Daniels: “When we walk in that door, it is definitely – it’s us.”
Chief Cherise Gause: “I head right to the kitchen, and I’ll start things, and I’ll run upstairs and change. That’s a part of balancing.”
Each of them have made painful sacrifices, but it’s all part of the change they want to make.
Chief Harvette Smith: “We’re faced with doing law enforcement differently. The culture has changed.”
Chief Cherise Gause: “I want to make sure that my son, who is a Black male, or my brother can go out comfortably into the community and not have a fear of police.”
Karen Hensel: “You’re all Black, you’re all women, you’re all chiefs. What does that mean to you personally, but also to your profession?”
Interim Director Stephanie Daniels: “No matter where you come from, what you got going on today, doesn’t have to be your reality 20 years from now.”
Chief Cherise Gause: “It’s not always easy, but I think it sends a message of hope that you, too, can achieve these levels of leadership.”
Chief Harvette Smith: “It lets the little girls, Black and brown like us, know that you can achieve anything. The sky’s the limit.”
And all three women are proof of that.
Karen Hensel, 7News.
Copyright 2023 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.