A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Christine Marsella
Apprehension about security on college campuses exists nationwide. Recent reminders of the Virginia Tech tragedy and the reported closure of some of the 17 entrances on the University of South Florida campus call to attention that student safety and security is a regular challenge. Students attending the Hillsborough Community College Ybor campus are doubly challenged since Ybor’s reputation as a crime-ridden community has yet to become a thing of the past.
Keisha Williams, 28, made a decision to stand front and center when she signed on as a security guard on the HCC Ybor campus. It is her job to secure neighboring parking lots and common areas. Associate’s Degrees in both Criminal Justice and Criminal Investigations from Evere st College, Williams is in a field traditionally reserved for men. What prompted this young woman and others to enter law enforcement and what part, if any, does gender play in their success?
For Williams, the decision to enroll in a field requiring this sort of strength and commitment came from an upbringing grounded by a work ethic evidenced by her mother, a warehouse laborer for 29 years, and a stepfather who, after retiring from the City of Tampa, continues to work. Personal determination is part of her story, too. She suffered a stroke when she was 7-years-old paralyzing the left side of her body. Only her left-hand remains affected today. Born a “southpaw”, Williams is a self-taught right-hander. If this wasn’t enough, Williams confessed that “living with an abusive ex-husband made protection for me and others a reality.”
Williams is further influenced to pursue a career in law enforcement by a first cousin, Lorrie Fluker, a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy. Entering law enforcement fresh out of high school, Dep. Fluker started in the State Department of Corrections then moved into County Corrections. She then took a “step up” to become a sheriff’s deputy. Fluker emphasized to her cousin, “there’s plenty of job security. There will always be crime, lawyers and different aspects of law enforcement not just patrol,” said Fluker. Deputy Fluker also affirms that a mutual respect exists in her relationships with her fellow male deputies. “The majority treats you as an equal and there are many who would rather not have another deputy other than a female to back them up,” said Fluker.
Officer Rachel Cholnik of the Tampa Police Department echoes Dep. Fluker’s comments. Officer Cholnik’s rank as Field Training Officer places her in a position over her male counterparts, training them in everything from 911 calls to traffic stops. “Depends on the person; some have a problem with females telling them what to do; other’s enjoy the experience,” said Cholnik.
Keisha Williams wouldn’t hesitate to call upon her male counterparts in case of an incident. Williams recently prevented a driver from parking in an area without a proper tag and although the driver moved his vehicle, he returned and confronted her. “I told him I would call back up if he didn’t stop harassing me. Unarmed, I only have my walkie-talkie, but I could throw it at him,” said
Strength, determination, and job security are but few of the reasons many enter law enforcement positions. Taking gender out of the equation is summed up by Officer Cholnik. “Just because we are females in law enforcement; we don’t like to be singled out by that. Just want to be cops,” said Cholnik.
A lover of puzzles, Keisha Williams would like to get into forensics one day and is influenced by TV shows such as “CSI” and “Law and Order”. She is engaged and in a long distance relationship. Her fiancé is stationed at the Army base in Clarksville, Tenn. Day-to-day Williams can be seen observing the parking lot near the Visual Arts building. When Williams takes a break, she has her Sudoku book nearby and daydreams about her man in Tennessee.