When the 108th Basic Recruit Class graduated from the Vermont Police Academy, the members quietly made history.
There were a number of female recruits who graduated to go on to positions in various departments in the state, but the Vermont State Police graduated 10 recruits in that class. For the State Police, it was the first time there were more female graduates than male.
One of the Nov. 22 graduates who is becoming a trooper, Isabella Corrao, said she has been an athlete her whole life. She said the structure and teamwork involved in public service was something she hoped to make a part of her career.
“I have two friends that live here in Vermont. I love to hike, I love to be outside, and Vermont’s a beautiful state, so I went for it and decided to choose the Vermont State Police,” said Corrao, who is originally from Long Island, New York.
While they didn’t know the high numbers of female recruits, 11 overall in the class, the women in the class soon found the value.
“Having each other and (being) able to rely on each other and work together as one female force was definitely beneficial. It’s nice to have a camaraderie and have each other’s backs,” said Corrao, who will be assigned to the Westminster barracks.
The female recruits made their mark. Trooper Audrey Currier was the class president for the basic recruits and Trooper Marina Pacilio won the class award for being Most Physically Fit.
Increasing diversity among the ranks of the VSP has been a “huge goal of ours for many years,” said Lt. Steven Coote, commander of the office of professional development for the VSP.
“I’ve been in this position now, as the director of recruiting and training for about two years now, and I can tell you that is one of my missions, as the commander here, to increase diversity, not only female troopers, but troopers of color and just diverse backgrounds, because it makes us a stronger unit,” he said.
Coote said having six new female troopers join the state police is a “huge step forward.”
“Generally, this is a pretty male-dominated profession nationally. The Vermont State Police has made some pretty good strides for years,” he said.
Adam Silverman, a spokesman for the statewide police agency, said 60% is the highest percentage of a particular class of graduates for the Vermont State Police who were women. Six is also the VSP’s largest number in one class, although Silverman said there had been a number of occasions when five female recruits graduated.
“With this graduating class, we currently have 41 female troopers out of 315 sworn personnel — for a total of about 13%. That’s among the highest, if not the highest, percentage for state police agencies in New England. It’s also the highest number of female troopers VSP has had at any point, best as we can tell,” Silverman said.
Coote said he likes to think some of the advances in making the VSP more diverse come from active efforts by the department and not just changing culture.
“We’re actively recruiting women. We’re using female recruiters. We’re using partnerships with (the New England State Police Administrators Conference.) … I think social media is a big deal for us. I think we’ve done a pretty good job with our social media page, which reaches a lot of different people. The old adage is, ‘You cast a wide net, and you’re going to get a pretty good return,’” Coote said.
The social media outreach has helped spread the word that police work is not what people always expect.
Corrao said when she signed up, she didn’t know how much diversity there would be in her basic recruit class. But the class members learned pretty early on theirs would be the first class to have more female recruits than male.
“It was just proof that the Vermont State Police and law enforcement in general is really trying to diversify their units,” she said.
Corrao said she felt a sense of pride because she didn’t believe the VSP was choosing recruits based on gender, but choosing the best candidates they had available for each class.
“That was really nice because with law-enforcement being so male dominant, it solidifies that females are in fact being considered, and we can do the job, just like everybody else,” she said.
Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said the addition of Avery Schneider will bring the number of female officers serving the city force to three, after three female officers left the department this year.
Diversifying the department has advantages, Kilcullen said.
“It allows us to provide services we otherwise wouldn’t be able to provide. (Female officers) bring experiences that half the population may have experienced,” he said.
Schneider is an “incredibly mature and passionate individual, and I think she’s a great fit for the department,” Kilcullen said.
“We expect a lot from her, and I think she won’t disappoint us,” he said.
Corrao said what she most looks forward to about being a trooper, although she said she knew it was a cliché, was helping people.