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Meet Me in St. Louis

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Brenda Johnson was not only on time for her orientation day at the San Francisco Police Department but she pulled into the parking lot fifteen minutes ahead of schedule. As the daughter of a military father, Brenda never had the luxury of being fashionably late, which in return gave Brenda the advantage over most of her peers; better parking, better food, and better opportunities. Today was no exception. Brenda wanted to make a great first impression on both her superior officers and her peers at the SFPD. Brenda knew that this place, this job could be that kind of job that changes her life. This job had all the perfect ingredients to jumpstart her career. Brenda stood outside the SFPD and breathed in the cool, summer San Francisco air before she entered the building. As Brenda walked up the inside atrium staircase to the third floor of SFPD, she reflected on how she came to this point in her life.

While in Law School, Brenda interned at the New Haven County Courthouse where she worked closely with Deputy Sherifs, court psychologists, and other law enforcement personnel. While Brenda was sitting in court one day, calculating child support for another case, Brenda witnessed a particularly compelling child endangerment case where the Deputy Chief of the New Haven Police Department had risked his life to save a five-year-old little girl from the deadly hands of her abusive father. Brenda was mesmerized by the Deputy Chief’s compassion and bravery for this little girl and it was there in that moment that Brenda decided that she wanted to go to police training in addition to finishing her law degree. Brenda believed that going through police training would only give her the experience to make her a stronger lawyer some day.

When Brenda sets her mind on a target, she doesn’t deviate from the path without a fight. Brenda graduated from law school and finished her police training by the time she was twenty-four because she wanted to get an advantage over her peers in the job market. She applied to many different law firms and police departments around the country but she had her eye on a certain department in Northern California. When Brenda interviewed with the SFPD, she immediately felt like the department and the division where she interviewed was the place she belonged. Brenda’s fellow sergeants, the men and women she would be working with, seemed genuinely friendly. The office building looked pristine, there were multiple bathrooms on every floor as well as candy machines to continuously enable Brenda’s addiction to sweets. However, the main attraction for Brenda was the fact that the SFPD was considered one of the top training departments in the country. The SFPD was known for producing the best law enforcement agents. Upon retirement, most people from the SFPD were either highly decorated officers, highly paid prosecutors, or full university professors in a criminal justice department. Brenda yearned to rise to the top of her career and she knew that the SFPD would get her to the top or at least on her way to the top. After gladly accepting the position that was offered to her that day, Brenda was suddenly faced with the challenge to pick the right mentor who could skyrocket her to the top of her field.

One of the requirements for all new SFPD sergeants like Brenda is to pick a mentor during their first year. Recall that the SFPD is a top training department for all levels of law enforcement. The pairing of the mentor/mentee is designed to give new sergeants the best opportunity for success in their field. This success transfers to both the individual and the department as a whole. Brenda sat in Chief Will Pope’s office on that first day of her new job listening to Pope, a balding middle age man explain (yet mostly ramble) about the quality of the SFPD’s mentorship program. While listening to Pope ramble, Brenda began to daydream about what her mentor/mentee relationship would be like. Would she choose a male or a female? Would her mentor always have her back or would he or she take Brenda for granted and make her slave labor? What kind of career would Brenda end up with after her mentorship? All of these questions were extremely important and Brenda began to feel a little nervous wondering whether or not she was capable of making such an important decision. Brenda always loved choosing mentors but she had little success actually keeping a mentor. Brenda had a taste for powerful, smart, and sophisticated women who knew what life had to offer. She knew it was more appropriate to choose a female mentor over a male being that choosing a male could complicate matters. Would other people think she and a male mentor were sleeping together? Would the male end up wanting to sleep with her? If that case scenario were to happen, it would devastate Brenda because she believed she should only get to the top through her own merits. Choosing a female mentor would be less complicated and less risky. After all, women did not want to sleep with the ultra-feminine Brenda Leigh Johnson. This is why it was very important for Brenda to choose wisely. Coming out of her daydream when Chief Pope rises out of his chair, Brenda quickly realized that she and Chief Pope were going on a tour of her new division, where she would meet her fellow colleagues. Running her hands through her soft blonde waves, with the intent to work out a small tangle, Brenda thought about how this tour could give her insight into which mentor she would choose.

Chief Pope carried a confident but charming disposition. Pope was one of those people who could tell you a lie about yourself that you would end up believing was true by the end of the conversation. Brenda found herself talking to him with ease but she was still cautious about his intentions, never neglecting that inner voice that said, “be careful, Brenda, don’t be too naive.” As Pope and Brenda began walking side-by-side into the long corridor that housed a line of cubicles, Pope gave Brenda an introduction to the team members of the Priority Homicide Division.

“So as you already know, Brenda, you will be working with the Priority Homicide Division. Your prior experience in law school and throughout your training program makes you a great asset to this division. With time and dedication, you should be moving up through the ranks in no time.” Brenda smiled and nodded respectfully as she continued to listen to Pope. Throughout the next hour, Brenda met her new colleagues of Priority Homicide. As Pope escorted her down the hall, they stopped at each open work cubicle to introduce Brenda to her new colleagues.

The first stop down the hall was the office of Pope’s administrative assistant, Anne Charles. Anne was a middle aged woman with fair skin and bluish-green eyes. Her hair resembled a 70s Farrah Fawcett; that is, wispy around the sides and as though she spent the last two hours of daylight every day at the beach. Anne immediately extended her hand toward Brenda and welcomed her to the division and Brenda drew an instant liking to Anne. Anne was warm, kind, and approachable and just what twenty-four year old Brenda needed in a friendly work colleague as she adjusted to her new city. “Welcome to the division, Brenda, I am here if you need anything,” Anne said assuredly. Brenda returned the warmth to Anne and said, “I appreciate that very much, Anne. I am sure I will be knocking on your door real soon."

As Brenda moved down the hall of the division, Pope continued to introduce Brenda to other members of the division. The division was filled with mostly men and only a handful of women. On that first day, Brenda met some senior members of the division like Provenza, Flynn, Taylor, and Andrea and also met some mid-level career types like Sanchez, Tao, Fritz, and Irene. All of the newbies were seated in a separate section closer to Pope’s office so that he could ensure their acclimation over the next year. In addition to Brenda, the other new officers included David Gabriel and Amy Sykes.

However, prior to meeting David and Amy, Pope walked Brenda down to the last open office door on the left of the hallway that belonged to Commander Sharon Raydor. When Pope and Brenda entered Sharon’s office, a slender woman seated behind a modest desk looked up from her computer. Sharon was dressed in a heather grey suit and her auburn hair fell just below her shoulders. Looking around the office, Brenda saw splashes of hand-drawn pictures adorning the office walls, resembling the work of children. Behind Sharon’s desk, Brenda saw two school-taken photos, one of a boy and one of a girl, both with light brown hair who looked like they were both in Elementary school.

From where she was standing, Brenda couldn’t tell the shade of Sharon’s eyes but she knew they were lighter than Brenda’s own dark brown eyes. As Pope introduced Brenda to Sharon, Sharon seemed cool, almost stoic. She didn’t get up from her seat but carefully rested her arms across her desk and forced a smile as she said hello to Brenda. She looked busy and Brenda thought she must be important but Brenda was also intimidated by Sharon’s demeanor and rank. Brenda wanted nothing more than to leave this woman alone and not be the cause of interrupting whatever task she was previously working on. Brenda tried to make small talk but she was nervous. Sharon politely chuckled at some of Brenda’s light-hearted self-deprecations and then after about five minutes of small talk, Pope and Brenda left Sharon to her work. As Pope walked Brenda to her new office space, Brenda couldn’t pinpoint her feelings after meeting Sharon. The top of her chest felt heavy like she had apprehension for any future encounters with this woman but she was also curious to know more about how Sharon Raydor made it so far in her career at this point in her life. After all, Sharon couldn’t have been more than 40 years old. Brenda decided she would tread lightly with Sharon but find out as much as she could about her.

The last stop on Brenda’s division tour was her own work space. Since she was new, Brenda shared a space with David and Amy who were also within their first year of joining the SFPD. Both David and Amy were kind but serious and dedicated to their job. Brenda sensed that the three of them would get along well and David and Amy made it clear that they would help Brenda adjust as much as possible. Brenda was seated in the corner desk of the office under a large white board that had what looked like brainstorming ideas drawn all over it.

As Brenda, David, and Amy chatted about the ins and outs of the division, Amy asked Brenda if she was aware of the department’s mentorship program.

Brenda: Chief Pope was explaining a little bit about the mentorship program to me. When is it that I need to pick a mentor?

Amy: You typically pick a mentor by the end of your first year. Then you spend another two years being mentored by that person and then you graduate to independence.

David: Right now, it is just the three of us who are in the mentorship program, but you need to pick your mentor wisely because they basically train you to become them.

Amy (rolling her eyes at David’s comment): You don’t have to become them but you do take on their good and bad qualities so it is important to get exposure to others’ work styles and beliefs as well. For example, I picked Andrea as my mentor but I sometimes shadow Tao on how he handles cases.

Brenda: David, who did you pick to be your mentor?

David: Well, I had a hard time choosing at first. Most of the division are so experienced and I wanted to choose someone who had the desire to help me. That quality is hard to find these days. A lot of mentors are only out for themselves and they want the mentee to bolster the mentor when it should really be the other way around.

Brenda: Well sure, but who could fill that role here?

David: Anne, actually

Brenda: Anne? The Chief’s admin? Can she even be your mentor? She’s a civilian.

David: Well, sometimes civilians make the best role models. They offer a different perspective because they aren’t caught up in the drama of our every day tasks. They are comparable to muggles.

Laughing, Brenda nodded in agreement of the Harry Potter reference whereas Amy rolled her eyes again.

David: Did you meet anyone you might consider to be your mentor?

Leaning forward in her leather chair while resting her elbow on the desk and biting her nails, Brenda immediately thought of cold and crispy Sharon Raydor. Sharon fit Brenda’s desired mentor attributes. Sharon was older, sophisticated, intelligent, and quite a bit aloof which intrigued Brenda. Brenda often enjoyed the challenge of befriending aloof individuals.

Brenda: Oh I don’t know… Sharon Raydor seems, ummmm interesting?

Obviously she said something wrong because Amy looked concerned and while shaking his head and looking down, David called out a warning. It was a light warning and if one wasn’t paying attention, one might confuse it with something else...something such as a tease.

David: Sharon Raydor is a mystery, Brenda and I heard she was quite the delagator. That might not be someone you would want as a mentor right now. And besides, she’s been after Buzz from another division as a mentee for a couple months now. Buzz still hasn’t made up his mind whether or not he wants to choose Provenza or Sharon.

Well, that settled that. Brenda didn’t want to go to any trouble wooing a mentor that wanted someone else. And Brenda also didn’t think it was the best idea to have a mentor who she was intimidated by. Brenda spent the rest of her first day at the SFPD learning about Amy and David’s mentors and the work they had them do for the division. Before leaving for the day and while Brenda was packing up her stuff, she heard two people talking as they came down the hall. When she looked up and out of her office space, Brenda saw Sharon and Pope laughing and walking out of the building together.

Brenda: Are Sharon and Pope friends?

Amy: Well, they walk out together every evening, although Sharon seems to always have a buddy with her.

Brenda thought, “why would a seemingly independent woman need a buddy with her?”

David: No one really knows what their relationship is. Pope is going through a divorce right now and we assume Sharon is still married to her husband since he came to the SFPD barbecue last week with their kids.

Puzzled, Brenda wondered what Sharon’s story was. Brenda wasn’t the type to be involved in office gossip but she rationalized her curiosity to needing to rule out inappropriate mentors. In addition, she kept feeling drawn to finding out more about Sharon.

As Brenda walked out of the building for the night, she rounded the corner to the parking garage to find she was suddenly  face to face with Sharon Raydor.

Brenda: Oh excuse me, Commander, I didn’t see you there.

Sharon: Well, why would you? You came around the corner pretty quickly and you were only focused on the ground. Something intriguing about the ground….ummmm (searching for a name)….Karen is it?

Brenda: (Feeling a twinge of disappoint at Sharon for not remembering her name) No, Ma’am, it’s Brenda not Karen and I apologize for not paying attention.

Sharon: Well then Brenda, I was on my way back up to the division to make a copy of this legal brief. Pope mentioned you have some legal experience….why don’t you go make me a copy of this and email it to me so I can have it to read at home tonight

Astounded at Sharon’s request, Brenda just stared with her mouth slightly open with the legal document in her hand as Sharon turned on her heel and headed toward her 12 year old Volvo and then drove out of the parking lot. Brenda had just received her first of many tests to come but she didn’t know it yet.