Breaking the Mold: Sacramento Police Department’s First Female Canine Officer Linda Matthew
By Chelsea Irvine
We’ve heard a lot lately about the feminist movement (thanks, #Bey) and women’s efforts to end stereotypes and crush the ever-present glass ceiling. Let us also not forget that women are succeeding in this effort, every day.
Enter Officer Linda Matthew, Sacramento Police Department’s first ever female canine officer. For nine years now, Linda has proven that yes, women are more than capable of doing the toughest jobs of their male counterparts.
Linda is great company. I had an opportunity to interview her for a vlog for a law enforcement client, the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), who are highlighting the impressive work of their female members. As a HUGE bonus, Linda brought her canine partner Rollo, who was, of course, the most anticipated guest to ever enter our office (sorry, Governor Brown and LG Newsom).
Linda began her career after working in retail at Victoria’s Secret and becoming fed up with the number of shoplifters frequenting her store.
“I was always the one who would chase the shoplifters out of the stores,” Linda mentioned during our discussion.
She went on a ride along with a friend and was hooked. Linda has been with Sac PD for almost 15 years, working with the canine unit for nine and with her current partner, Rollo, for seven. Linda and Rollo spend all day, every day together; patrolling the streets of Sacramento and ending their days at home together (she even admitted she sometimes lets Rollo sleep in the bed at night – those of us who love dogs can’t blame her for that.)
Together, Linda and Rollo respond to incidents of armed or dangerous suspects, in-progress felonies such as robberies and burglaries, searches for concealed or fleeing suspects and searches for narcotics or explosives. They also conduct public demonstrations at community events and schools. The K9 unit collectively participates in over 100 of these events every year.
In their seven years together, Linda and Rollo have had some impressive experiences.
“One of our biggest accomplishments together as a team was when we were dispatched to a domestic violence call. When the suspect saw the officers he ran out the back door into a residential neighborhood. When Rollo and I got there to search for him, we had probably searched two or three blocks and we came upon a vacant house. As we were walking down the side of the house, Rollo made one quick head jerk (toward the house), we made our way into the house and found the suspect hiding inside.”
The canines used by police can often do the work of multiple officers in half the time; the unit even referring to them as “force multipliers.” The dogs’ smell, sight, speed, and agility are critical to their job functions. The dogs go through extensive testing and the few dogs that make the cut go through an additional four months of training with their handlers and must pass a rigorous certification test. After passing the test, the dogs and their handlers continue training 16 to 20 hours more each month.
Linda has learned a lot since becoming a canine handler. When it comes to approaching suspects, the reaction to an officer with a gun and an officer with a canine is drastically different.
“There has definitely been a change or a shift in how the public views me now. You could have someone at gunpoint, talking to them, getting them to not run away from you and they’ll just turn and run, they don’t care. When you roll up to a call and you’ve got your window down and the dog is barking, it just intimidates people and they stop. It’s amazing: they stop.
Linda has been welcomed with open arms to the Sac PD Canine Unit. She is clearly happy with her decision and loves spending her days with Rollo (even when he eats half of her lunch if she isn’t looking).
Linda is also very supportive of her fellow female officers and those looking to join the law enforcement profession.
“A piece of advice to a female looking to get into this profession would be to talk to as many people as you can that are already doing this job. And just keep going for what you want. Don’t give up… If it’s something that you want to do, just keep going for it; especially if you’re trying to become a canine handler or any specialty unit.”
It was great chatting with Linda and learning about what it is really like to be a canine cop. Women like Linda make it easier for others by opening doors that were closed tight in years past. We’re lucky to have Linda and Rollo keeping the grid’s streets safe.