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Female Officer Believes Attitude Matters More than Gender in Police Work

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DURHAM — When Officer Tonya Gillikin was killed Monday, she became one of the few female police officers who have died in the line of duty in North Carolina. Officers across the state are recovering.

"Just as it was her, it could have been me. It could have been any of us," says Durham Police Officer Tracy Becker.

As Becker patrols the streets of downtown Durham, Gillikin is close to her thoughts. Becker and Gillikin are the same age, and both are women in a field that has long been dominated by men.

Becker says what happened to Tonya Gillikin could happen to any officer--male or female.

"I really think that you have to prove yourself, just like anybody else has to prove theirself," Becker say. "I don't feel like I had to do more of that just because I am a woman."

Becker admits some suspects might test her because she is a woman. She says they are the same people who would push their luck with any officer.

Becker believes police work is more about attitude than gender.

"If you arrive and you let them know that you are there to do your job, and that you are a police officer, they are not going treat you any differently just because of your gender," Becker says.

Becker has the same training and carries the same gun as male officers. If Tonya Gillikin's death sends any message, Becker says, it is to remind all police officers never to let down their guards.

"You cannot ever stop being sharp, because it only takes a split second," she says.

In the five years she has been with the Durham Police, Tracy Becker estimates the number of women on the force has doubled, and that includes new chief Theresa Chambers.


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