As the first woman to reach lieutenant with the Auburn Police Department, Laurie Woodhead has a lot of stories. 

There was that time she went undercover as a prostitute and she didn’t get quite the reception she expected. The time her radio mic accidentally turned on in the bathroom.

The times — plural — fellow officers told her female cops weren’t intimidating enough. 

But she never let it stop her from sticking with the career she’d dreamed of since childhood. And stick with it she did, for more than 26 years.

Earlier this month she reached a new milestone: first female officer to retire from the Auburn Police Department.

Name: Laurie Woodhead

Age: 49 and going strong!

Town: Canton

Married/relationship/single: Married to Jon Woodhead, who is a lieutenant paramedic firefighter with the city of Auburn, and together we have five kids and two granddaughters.

Job: RETIRED as a lieutenant with the Auburn Police Department after 26.8 years. Soon to be gainfully employed full time as an emergency medical dispatcher with United Ambulance, who I have worked for per diem for the last 18 years.

When did you decide you wanted to become a police officer and why? I grew up in Appleton, Maine, which is in the boondocks. Ever since I was a young kid, around 8 or 9, I decided I wanted to be a cop. It also didn’t hurt that I LOVED to watch “CHiPs,” as well as the “Dukes of Hazzard.” Every now and then you could hear a siren from miles and miles away, getting closer and closer, and I would run outside and watch the cruiser fly by my house with its blue lights and siren on, and I was left in a state of awe. The few encounters I had with law enforcement left me with positive and lasting impressions of professionalism. In the summer before my senior year in high school, I qualified to go the the Maine Criminal Justice Academy for a weekend, as they were recruiting females and this was an opportunity to feel and learn, in-depth and firsthand, what the job was about. After that weekend, I was hooked and I knew for sure that is what I wanted.

What did your friends and family think? I have a very “unique” personality, and basically everyone figured if any female was capable of doing it, it would be me.

Best things about being a police officer? I love the diversity that the job brings. You never know what the day will bring, or heck, what the next second can bring; there are no two days that are alike. I also liked the camaraderie that you develop within your department and basically nationwide. It is a brotherhood and sisterhood that is unabashed and a bond that cannot be broken.

Most challenging things: It was difficult at first because of my gender in a male-dominated field. There were two other females that were working for APD when I got hired. We were told, on more than one occasion, that we could not work adjoining beats, because we “weren’t intimidating enough.” I am very thankful that the mindset is no longer like that, nor is it tolerated. The career is very difficult on your family life. Being a mom, there are certain expectations placed on you by your family, and it always made me feel bad when I was working Christmas or other holidays, or had to plan birthday parties around my days off. Another difficult thing is that no one is really happy to see you coming (unlike the firefighters who show up in their shiny red trucks). We see and deal with people when they are having their worst day ever, and unlike fairy tales, people don’t always live a life of “happily ever after.” But because of this job, it enabled me to see how life events affect people, and it kept me humbled and thankful for all that I have.

Most memorable situation with APD? There are so many. Once, many years ago, when I was undercover as a prostitute, I was wearing a body wire which was monitored by my backup. I was approached by a male who wanted a sexual act, and he told me that all he had was $8. I hesitated, because truly he caught me off guard (remember, I grew up in the country and we didn’t have “situations” like that), and I didn’t quite know what to say. I was really thinking to myself, “Really?? 8 bucks??” but then I remembered that I wasn’t out there for my vanity. And then, really without thinking how it sounded, I responded to him, “OK, but don’t expect anything fancy.” I was later informed by my backups that they nearly died from laughter at my response and wondered, “Nothing fancy? What were you going to do, stand on your head?” More recently, I went to the bathroom and unbeknownst to me when I took my gun belt off, my radio mic landed on the floor and was keyed up (which meant that EVERYONE could hear what I was doing, yet I had no knowledge that they could). Needless to say, after a few failed attempts of dispatch trying to reach me via the radio, one of my fellow employees called my cell phone and let me know. Because I have such awesome friends, they made a recording of the whole event, which was played at my retirement. And yes, you do get gassier as you get older.

What was it like being the first woman in the APD to reach lieutenant? Slightly intimidating, because once again I reminded myself on how many people may or may not be watching, critiquing and judging my abilities to lead based on my gender. But I was also proud of myself, because I did not give up throughout my career, and even though I always try to have fun at my job, I also kept it in the back of my mind that I was setting the examples for other females to follow.

Have any other women followed? None yet, but there will be. Female officers bring such unique qualities and traits to the career, sometimes without even knowing it. Studies have shown that we react differently, we sense things differently and do much more differently than our male counterparts. Sometimes, this changed perspective is quite beneficial.

What are you going to do now? Well, other than dispatching (which is only THREE DAYS A WEEK!), I plan on doing what “normal” people do: spend more time with my family and enjoy family events. My daughter and stepsons are very active in sports, so I will be able to attend their activities. Plus I have all sorts of outdoor extracurricular equipment, which I will finally be able to take full advantage of.

Advice to young women who want to become cops? Believe in yourself! Sometimes you have to fake it, but if you are confident (and not cocky), you will make it. Don’t give up! The process and the career is not easy, but be willing to accept help, positive criticism and support. Law enforcement is not for just anyone. You truly have to have a desire in your heart for the career. If you don’t, you won’t last no matter what. You have to be comfortable with being the “bad guy.” People don’t like it when they see you coming, but you have a job to do and you have to enforce laws, which sometimes doesn’t go over well. You need to have a support system of some sort — this career is VERY DEMANDING on you, emotionally, physically and mentally. Before you know it, it will take a toll on you and your family life as well. I was (and thankfully still am) very supported by my family. Twenty-six-point-eight years later, my parents both still tell me how proud of me they are. That in itself is pretty powerful.

On being a police officer:

“We see and deal with people when they are having their worst day ever, and unlike fairy tales, people don’t always live a life of “happily ever after.” But because of this job, it enabled me to see how life events affect people, and it kept me humbled and thankful for all that I have.”

Most memorable situation with APD?

“There are so many. Once, many years ago, when I was undercover as a prostitute, I was wearing a body wire which was monitored by my backup. I was approached by a male who wanted a sexual act, and he told me that all he had was $8 . . .”


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