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Sulphur's first African-American female police officer retires

Last Modified: Saturday, February 23, 2013 6:18 PM

By Natalie Stewart / American Press

SULPHUR — After a nearly three-decade-long career, Vinetta Briscoe retired from the Sulphur Police Department, an experience she said felt “like leaving home.”

Not only was Briscoe the first black woman to make a career out of law enforcement at the Sulphur Police Department, but she is also the first female uniformed patrol officer to retire from the department, after 28 years of service.

She began with the Sulphur Police Department in 1984 after graduating from McNeese State University with a degree in criminal justice. She left the department for a few months and returned in 1985 when then-Chief T.J. Andrus called to tell her there was an opening.

“I never really planned on making a lifelong career out of law enforcement, but in ninth grade my civics class would go watch trials and I remember thinking, ‘I want to make a difference,’ ” Briscoe said. “I had planned on working in law enforcement for a short period of time and then going to law school, but things happen that change plans and I just ended up staying. Once you get it in your blood it becomes a part of you. It’s really kind of addictive.”

Briscoe said there were challenges at first, joining a field mostly dominated by white men.

“The biggest challenge was that I had to get to know them, and they had to get to know me,” she said. “For me, that wasn’t hard because when schools were integrated I was in fourth grade, so I was used to being mixed in with others. But for some of them, having an African-American woman around was hard. They weren’t really ready for me, but we learned.”

Briscoe said that soon enough the department learned to accept her, and it was “like one big family.”

She worked in the department through the years as a records clerk, dispatcher, patrol officer, detective and in administration. But of all the positions she held she said her fondest memories come from her time spent in the detective division.

“Being a detective was my passion. I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I felt like I was helping people, and I had a great team to work with. We were ‘the fabulous five’ — that was probably some of the best times in my career.”

Briscoe said “the fabulous five” consisted of herself, Lewis Coats, Matt Rosteet, Brandon Dever and Mark Wood.

“We added two ID guys, Mike Strother and Rickie Littleton, to our crew and then we became ‘the magnificent seven,’ ” Briscoe said. “I was in charge. At least that’s what they let me think. They are really great guys.”

Briscoe said some of the most mirthful moments from her detective division days were when she and Rosteet would argue.

“Me and (Rosteet) would bump heads a lot. He was the same age as my oldest son, so he kind of looked at me like Mom, I guess,” she said. “We would get into some knockdown, drag-outs and wouldn’t speak to each other. Then (Coats) would come in and try to fix it. He’s always been a leader. Then there was (Dever), who would come and try and take both sides until I made him mad too.”

Briscoe said that after one incident Rosteet wrote her a lengthy letter saying that they would only speak regarding work.

“It said, ‘It’s all about work, nothing else,’ ” she said. “I saved that letter, and it makes me laugh because two days later we were at lunch together laughing. It really was like a family in every sense.

“People used to always tell us, ‘Y’all need a minivan,’ because we would all pile up in one car.”

Briscoe said all the good times with the department outweighed the bad “by far.”

“I’ve seen a lot of really bad stuff and stuff that nothing could prepare a person for,” she said. “All of those really horrible sights were awful, but the hardest things were seeing a family grieve over a child that got killed or to go to the residence of an older couple that one has deceased and the family isn’t there to grieve with them yet.

“I’ve sat and held them and cried with them before. It’s not that you forget that you’re a police officer, because in a sense you are protecting while you’re grieving with this person who is experiencing a terrible moment.”

The most rewarding moments of her career, she said, were moments when she “felt I was making a difference.”

“I’ve helped people. That’s a rewarding feeling,” she said. “A lot of times I would see kids, and I would pick them up and bring them home, and instead of giving them a record I would just talk to them. Some of them have come back over the years and thanked me as grown men for making a difference in their life. And there isn’t anything more rewarding for me than knowing that I helped somebody.”

Briscoe said that in retirement she plans to spend a lot of time “spoiling my two grandchildren.”

“I’ll probably end up going to work somewhere, like at the park or somewhere like that because I really love kids,” she said. “I miss my babies at the department already, though. I really do. It’s really hard to see things like something on the road and I want to stop and then I have to say, ‘OK, you don’t do this anymore,’ and I want to pick up the phone and call them. It’s really hard to let go.

“I think I’ll be OK though, unless they need me. Then I would go back,” she said. “I really did have a wonderful career. I can honestly say that.”

Posted By: Randy On: 2/25/2013

Title: Same person?

Such a glowing write up but my experience was dramatically different.
After months of foot dragging I had to call a department head to get the investigation moving that this person was assigned. Weeks and weeks of emails and phone calls went unanswered. The case eventually died on the vine and never followed through on, I was extremely disappointed.

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