Allyson Tanner’s sights were not always set on becoming a police officer.
In fact, it was quite the opposite.
“My dad was a police officer for 40 years (1966-2006) so it was actually on my list of things NOT to do,” Tanner said. “I saw his crazy schedule and heard some stories of things he had to deal with and didn’t think it was something I would want to do. However, I always knew it was something I could be good at.”
In 2007, while coaching men’s lacrosse at the University of New Haven, Tanner took a regional police test to support one of her student-athletes.
Six months later, she found herself in the police academy and has been a part of the force ever since.
“I like being in a ‘small town’ because you get to see a little bit of everything, you get to investigate your own cases, and you get to be involved in the community – you can do more than just arrest people,” Tanner said. “However, complacency kills so we are always prepared for the worst.
“We are ‘first responders’ so we are generally first on scene to medical emergencies as well. OSPD requires every officer to be an EMT.”
After spending five years with the Clinton Police Department, Tanner transferred to the Old Saybrook Department of Police Services, where she still works today.
Tanner has also opened up her own business, KUR Recovery Spa, which offers cryotherapy to help accelerate muscle recovery, reduce pain and inflammation and improve sleep.
In addition to that, Tanner balances working both as a business owner and a police officer with having a family.
“Some days I wonder if there really is a balance,” Tanner said. “I love nothing more than my toddler (and my husband) but I feel no greater responsibility than work.
While Tanner can have her son at her business, it is different when she is in the police cruiser.
“When I found out I was pregnant I immediately started working on opening my own business because I knew I would struggle with the balance of being a mother and police officer,” she said.
Even though she now is just a per-diem officer, Tanner is much needed in a profession where females are underrepresented in the workforce.
She said that the average police department is made up of about 10 percent females, but that in Old Saybrook it is about 20 percent, with four full time and two part-time female officers.
“That’s still lower than most other professions,” Tanner said. “When I first started in Clinton, I was one of two females there, and would get called out by other departments (including Old Saybrook) where there would be no females, to help with female prisoner searches or DUI processing.
“In some ways, it was great to get to know officers in other towns who one day could be your back up in more serious incidents, and I got to see how other departments handled certain situations.”
While Tanner said that being female has not affected her career advancement, as she able to go to training courses I requested, was able to be an SRO at both departments and a DARE teacher, she explained some things you are faced with as a female officer.
“You certainly come across people who think women should not be officers and they openly and loudly share their opinion,” Tanner said. “Most of the time it’s easy to shrug off, but every once and a while someone will get under your skin and you have to maintain your bearing and do your job.”
“Every once and a while a suspect will use body language to challenge you/a female thinking they could overpower them, but generally if you don’t back down and use your ‘verbal jujitsu’ the situation goes smoothly.”
Tanner said that one thing her father taught her is that it is all about how you talk to people, which applies not only to her job as an officer, but every aspect of life.
Still, Tanner has had some great experiences on the force, which includes the story of how she got married.
“A fun/unique story is that my supervisor in Clinton, Jerry Dunn, was also a justice of the peace and helped my husband and I pull off our surprise wedding,” Tanner said. “We eloped quietly on a Thursday night at the Clinton Town Beach after an evening shift.”
So, what does Tanner advise for other women who are looking to join the force?
“Have something that makes you stand out as an asset – it doesn’t have to be a criminal justice degree, but have something in your ‘bag of tricks’ that can work to your advantage,” she said. “This can apply in any profession but with the unique hiring process for police, it will come in handy.
“Be able to pass an intense background check and polygraph exam – And don’t buckle under the pressure of that background investigation – be confident in who you are and your ability to do the job well. And whenever possible, pass the agility at the men’s standards – one less thing anyone can say to you/about you in the academy or during the selection process.”
As a business owner, coach and police officer, Allyson Tanner has embodied the spirit of burning it down in so many ways.
“We as women don’t need to do anything new and different, we’ve been ‘doing it’ we just need to remind the world that we’re unique and nothing should be assumed about anyone for any reason, but especially because of gender,” she said.