For the first time in its 222-year history, Norfolk, Virginia’s police department has an African-American female captain, reports local ABC News.
Long-time officer Michele Naughton was recently appointed to the position after joining the police force in 2002.
“I’m bursting inside,” she said. “Norfolk Police Department is a department of inclusion. It’s a department of diversity and wherever you come from, your past does not dictate your future.”
In 2000, the single mom of three moved from New York to her mother’s hometown of Norfolk. After encouragement from her mom to join the police department, Naughton signed up for the process while working in retail and living in government housing in order to support her family. Due to a torn ACL, it took her two years to graduate from the police academy.
In 2002, she officially became an officer and within one year she became a department lead and was named “Officer of the Year.”
While her career was taking off, Naughton’s personal life took a bit of a hit when she was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant in 2005. She eventually beat the cancer, but lost the child in 2006. She tells the local news that it was her “faith in God” that helped her to get through that process.
After overcoming cancer, Naughton was later promoted to Sergeant and then Lieutenant in 2015. During this time, she policed some of the area’s most challenging neighborhoods for crime, all while building an even stronger connection to the community.
Now, in addition to serving as a police officer, the single mom and cancer survivor also serves as a literacy tutor and a co-host of a bi-weekly radio talk show.
She tells the local news that as she steps into her newly appointed role, she wants to inspire the next generation of women to also break barriers and “make a stand in law enforcement.”