Cheri Silveira remembers the moment she realized she wanted to become a police officer. Working in loss prevention at Gottschalks during her first college job, joining the ranks of law enforcement was never on her mind despite frequent inquiries from her coworkers. That all changed when one day she had to chase down a shoplifter as they fled from the store.
“I felt so proud,” said Silveira, also recalling the disappointment she felt after the first time she failed to catch a shoplifter. “I realized these emotions were because I cared about the job.”
The feeling of apprehending a criminal combined with her interest in a Sociology class in college convinced Silveira to switch her major to Sociology, and she also began taking Police Reserve classes. The rest, she said, is history.
Silveira now serves as a sergeant for the University Police Department at Stanislaus State – the first female within the department to ever hold the rank. As sergeant, Silveira is a shift supervisor in charge of sworn officers. She is considered a mid-level manager and is responsible for making sure that department policies and procedures are being followed, and is also in charge of supervising large events on campus.
UPD Chief Andy Roy said it is Silveira’s communication skills and excellent character traits that made her the perfect fit for the role of sergeant.
“She is an honest person with a strong sense of commitment to her role as a leader within UPD,” said Roy. “She can think quickly and make quality decisions in times of crisis. She is also a positive role model who is very well respected on campus and within our organization.”
As a female in a male-dominated profession, respect was something that Silveira found she had to earn early on in her career.
“As a female in this profession, I feel we can be second-guessed at times or looked at as weaker,” said Silveira. “Even from the beginning of the academy, I felt I had to prove myself which made me work harder.”
In the police academy, Silveira aimed to make herself “indispensable” by learning all that she could, even sometimes more than necessary simply to prove herself. At UPD, however, proving herself has never been a problem.
“Right now, I work with an amazing group of people,” she said. “My coworkers and supervisors have never made me feel less of an officer or supervisor.”
As the first female sergeant at UPD, Silveira expressed the importance of diversity within not only the police force, but other positions of leadership as well.
“Females offer different perspectives,” said Silveira. “We are generally the more nurturing gender. This proves helpful because not only do we value competition, but we also value collaboration in our organizations. Diversity in our leadership positions can produce innovative thinking.”
As Chief of UPD, Roy has made it a priority to not only promote quality people, but to also make sure that the police department represents the campus community.
“In today’s community policing models, it is important that we have a diverse work place so we may prevent, solve and/or deescalate problems when they arise,” said Roy. “Women in any leadership roles, and especially in law enforcement, allows for better creativity, stronger collaboration and different perspectives when dealing with critical and non-critical situations.”
On top of handling all of the responsibilities that come with being sergeant, Silveira also plays an active part in shaping the lives of the students around her. She has been an instructor of the department’s Rape Aggression Defense classes for a decade, and hopes to develop the class into a course for college credit.
“There is nothing better than empowering a young woman and watching her find her self-confidence and self-reliance,” said Silveira.
She also plans to hold a workshop for males in the university’s dorms which will teach them about sexual violence and help them to avoid aggression in their lives.
“It’s equally important to teach our young men about situations they could face in college,” she said.
Silveira also had advice for women in law enforcement hoping to follow in her footsteps.
“Statistically speaking, there aren't a lot of women wanting to be in this profession,” said Silveira. “Every police agency is different and has different requirements to promote: education, special assignments, tenure, etc. Female officers who want to promote need to ensure they have all the requirements.
“I encourage the female officer to find a supervisor she respects and look to them for mentorship.”