Author: Clyde Roper, Communications Officer
Few would call the field of law enforcement an easy career path to follow. Being a police officer has always had its challenges, but for many women in years past, just getting on the force in a profession so heavily dominated by men was daunting. Societal changes have seen more and more female officers enter police ranks in recent years. That is a positive trend. However, the women who were the first to serve at their departments and who convinced sometimes skeptical brother officers they could hold their own still deserve our thanks. One such officer is Mae Thompson Carpenter, who retired from State Capitol Police in 1996.
Carpenter’s list of accomplishments shows just how much of a trailblazer she was at State Capitol Police.
- First female officer to join the agency in 1977
- First female supervisor for SCP
- First female officer at SCP to earn an Advanced Law Enforcement Certification
- First female to retire from SCP
“Mae Thompson Carpenter was a dedicated and valued officer at a time when female officers were rare in the profession,” said State Capitol Police Chief Glen Allen. “She was a pioneer at our agency and continues to be a valued member of the State Capitol Police family. Her long record of passionate service is greatly appreciated and continues to provide inspiration to those of us still serving.”
To the impressive list of Carpenter’s attainments above, another notable “first” can be added. She was one of the first nine instructors- and only female- to teach Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) in Johnston County when the BLET program was started at Johnston Community College. Carpenter was a versatile instructor who taught classes in a variety of subjects including constitutional law, emergency medical/CPR training, crisis management, security personnel training and crime prevention. In fact, the only training she didn’t have a hand in when the program started was the specialized field of firearms instruction. With the exception of firearms, she taught all BLET classes offered at the time.
Carpenter said her interest in law enforcement had been sparked at an early age.
“I came from a military family and being patriotic was in my blood. My parents were very civic minded, and encouraged me to do my part to help other people,” Carpenter said. “That, and the fact I was so impressed by an officer named Charles Hicks, who was a friend of the family and later became the chief of police in Selma. He was a good man and I always looked up to him.”
Carpenter recently reflected on her long and successful career. She thought about all the times she had been hot or cold or tired and continued on with the job. She had always done her duty and today has no regrets, pointing out that sometimes even seemingly trivial things give her pride in what she was able to accomplish.
“It wasn’t always easy, but I enjoyed every day I went to work. Every day was different,” Carpenter said. “Take something as simple as raising the flags over the Capitol. It could be tough when you were up on the roof and it was cold and slick with the rain or some snow. I was the first woman to raise the flags over the State Capitol. I considered that a great honor and still do.”
UPDATE 3/22/21 - Today we celebrate the life of Mae Thompson Carpenter, the first female officer to join State Capitol Police and a pioneer within the department. The Department of Public Safety sends its condolences to her family, friends and those who had the honor of serving beside her.