by Officer Schenita Stewart,
Lincolnwood (Ill.) Police Department
In the male-dominated world of law enforcement, there is much to be said for women’s intuition. I’m a police officer with the Lincolnwood (Ill.) Police Department. As a woman in law enforcement for the past seven years, I have learned to trust and value that intuition. In my job, gut instinct is vital to perceiving and reacting to situations. Intuition makes use of our internal antenna and allows us the possibility of averting hazardous situations. As an officer, this is crucial to assessing the danger of a situation. But more important, for a woman, intuition is a liberating and valuable gift.
On my journey through life, I have relied on my intuition during numerous circumstances - both personally and professionally. I’ve come to trust that perception for all it’s worth. For instance, one night while I was on patrol, a citizen flagged down an officer and reported an alleged drunk driver in our village. The officer responded to the complaint and had pulled over the suspected vehicle when I arrived as back up. As I observed, my fellow officer searched the driver, passenger, and vehicle but was unable to retrieve evidence to support charges or arrest. The officer was convinced there was no immediate threat and allowed the suspects to leave the scene. As they drove away, I questioned the situation. I weighed the pros and cons and tried to imagine what, if any, would be the consequences of overriding my superior’s determination. Still, I was compelled to examine this case further. As a public safety official, how could I rationalize that I was effectively protecting the residents in our village? Deep down, I knew I was inadvertently allowing harm to others by not intercepting this suspect, and I decided to trust my gut. As a result, I waited approximately five minutes to pull the vehicle over for a second time. As I exited my vehicle, I observed vigorous discussion between the suspected occupants, and they were discreetly fumbling with items that I was not able to identify. The hair on the back of my neck began to stand on end and I cautiously approached their vehicle. The driver seemed nervous and agitated, which heightened my own nervousness.
At that point, I radioed ahead for back up. My suspicions were confirmed when I conducted a search and discovered illegal drugs in their possession. I arrested the perpetrators. The seized substance was a new type of designer drug that is highly potent. The lab had to contact the Drug Enforcement Administration for classification of the substance. It was the first bust of the drug in Illinois.
I have led my department in the number of felony arrests made for the past seven years. I attribute much of that success to my intuition. I try to be conscious of my intuition by recognizing the way I react mentally and physically. I notice that I have the sense of knowing something without the benefit of logically understanding where that knowledge is derived. In essence, that is the definitive characteristic of intuition. There may be many types of indicators perceived by a woman that a particular situation needs to be addressed further or that caution should be used. Interpretation is left to each person to decipher. Be aware of your indicators and adhere to them.
It has been said that all women are born with this gift. I am unsure of where it comes from and unable to prove it scientifically, but I have every confidence that women’s intuition is a reality. As women, we have the choice to either benefit from our ability or ignore it. I think it’s imperative for women to develop this talent and wholeheartedly trust in our capabilities.
If you find yourself in a setting that makes you feel alarmed or uncertain, don’t doubt that impulse. Investigate the circumstances, assess your situation, and if you feel hesitant or alarmed, try to divert conflict or obtain assistance from others. It is always better to err on the side of safety and positiveness than to encounter regrets or harm. We have all heard the phrase “seeing is believing,” but emotions and feelings play major roles in what we accept as truth or fact. Don’t be fooled by illusions. Sometimes feeling is believing. ■
Schenita Stewart, MS
Officer Stewart received her master’s degree from Chicago State University in 2005. She is a police officer for the Lincolnwood (Ill.) Police Department and received the Officer of the Year Award in 2000. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected].