SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — City police Sgt. David Dunn keeps a prophetic photo on his phone: his daughter dressed as a police officer for Halloween when she was about 5 years old.
Now, Taylor Dunn wears the same uniform he does.
"That's when I knew," he said as he showed off the picture.
Taylor Dunn, 22, joined her father as a sworn officer of the Scranton Police Department on March 4. The pair are the first father and daughter to serve together on the force in the department's history, city Police Chief Carl Graziano said, though there have been father-son duos in the department before.
The pair are also likely the first father and daughter to serve at the same time in the same police department in Lackawanna County, said John Chilleri, director of the Lackawanna College Police Academy and a longtime instructor there.
'I can really do this'
For as long as Taylor Dunn can remember, she wanted to be a police officer.
Growing up, she listened intently as her father came home and talked about his day at work. She witnessed firsthand the impact the profession has on the community, recalling a time her father and other officers helped an elderly couple escape a fire that wrecked their home. The couple and their family occasionally saw the Dunns and always expressed their gratitude and appreciation, Taylor Dunn said.
She often peppered him with questions about police work, said David Dunn, a patrol sergeant with Scranton police. The pride he felt for his job was obvious, she said.
"Being able to see how much he loves his job and hearing his stories, that motivated me," Taylor Dunn said. "I always told myself I don't want to have to wake up every day and hate my job."
Another key moment from childhood came during a Girl Scout sleepover at the former Mall at Steamtown, an event which two Scranton police patrolwomen also attended. Seeing the women in uniform proved an inspiration.
"That's when I was like, 'Wow, I really can do this,'" Taylor said.
While Taylor showed an interest in following in her father's footsteps, her father was less enthusiastic.
Both Taylor and David Dunn said he often tried to talk her out of pursuing a career in law enforcement over the years. Being a Scranton police officer is a good, rewarding job that he loves, her father said, but the 30-year veteran of the department knows the risks of the profession.
"I'm an advocate for female officers. We need more," David Dunn said. "When your daughter tells you she wants to be a cop. ... It's a dangerous job. I thought, 'Oh boy.'"
But Taylor Dunn wasn't dissuaded. The Scranton High School graduate finished degrees in criminal justice and psychology from Keystone College in two years before moving on to the Lackawanna College Police Academy. After graduating there, she served as a part-time officer in Taylor for about a year. There, she worked patrol shifts and as a school resource officer at Riverside School District. The experience convinced her she made the right career move, she said.
"I know I wouldn't want to do anything else," Taylor said. "I can't picture myself doing any other job."
Now, Taylor Dunn is undergoing the five-month-long field training mandatory for new Scranton police officers and will hit the streets on her own in the summer. Among the advice her father gave her: "Never let your guard down; don't get complacent."
While he used to try to talk her out of following in his footsteps, he now feels a lot of pride, David Dunn said.
"I'm happy for her. I just hope that she succeeds. The way this world is now, it's dangerous to be a police officer," David Dunn said. "There's always this thought there. It's something you can't think about all the time."
'More ... in the future'
Both Dunns said they were surprised at being the first father and daughter to serve with Scranton police.
"If you asked me 20 years ago, I'd never think I'd be in this position," David Dunn said.
Taylor Dunn doubts they'll be the last. Careers in law enforcement often run in families and a growing number of women are training to become or working as police officers, Taylor said. Locally, numbers of women enrolled at the Lackawanna College Police Academy have increased over the years, Chilleri said.
Plus, there's the positive effect that seeing a woman officer has on young girls. Taylor Dunn said when she worked at Riverside elementary schools, the girls there were excited and interested to see a woman in uniform.
Later in the year, some dressed as police officers for Halloween.
"I think we'll definitely see more of it in the future," Taylor said.
Women in uniform
Taylor Dunn joins 12 other women as sworn police officers of the Scranton Police Department.
Of 670,279 police officers working nationally, 83,785 were women, according to the FBI's 2017 Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the last year data was available. In Pennsylvania, 2,617 of the 23,222 police officers in the state were women, according to the report.
More and more departments are looking to hire greater numbers of women as officers and it is important to have a mix of both men and women on forces, said John Chilleri, director of the Lackawanna College Police Academy. Women are often better at de-escalating situations, he said. Female and child victims also usually relate better to female officers, he said.
Hiring women is also important because police departments should be representative of the communities they serve, said Scranton Police Chief Carl Graziano.
"Diversity is important for a police department," Graziano said. "We need to be well-rounded as a department."
— CLAYTON OVER
Information from: The Times-Tribune, http://thetimes-tribune.com/