By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Feb. 25, 2008
GUILFORD — For police Officers Martina Jakober and Joanne Shove, there are certain challenges to being both cops and mothers with new babies at home.
Jakober decided to take an extra three months of unpaid maternity leave because, for one, she found that breast-feeding was not entirely compatible with law enforcement.
“It makes it very difficult to be wearing the bulletproof vest,” she said. “In police work you can’t just say, ‘I’m sorry, I know you’re under arrest, I’ve got to head back to the station and pump.’ ”
And after being out of the office for six months and off the road for about a year, she felt like she had a case of “baby brain”: “I had a difficult time the first week getting my bearings — trying to get my brain back into the laws and statutes and uses of force.”
In most small-town police departments, female officers are still something of an anomaly: about 6 percent of the officers in departments that serve a population under 25,000 are women, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Guilford, with a population of about 22,000, has four women on its 38-person police force, or about 10.5 percent of the department. Jakober, who is 31, was the first officer in the history of the department to take maternity leave, with Shove, 35, following soon after her.
Jakober’s son Mason was born on Aug. 3, and she resumed full-time duty at the beginning of this month. Shove is still at home with her daughter, Julia, who was born Jan. 23. She plans to return to work on April 17.
Both officers said they had strong support from the Police Department during their pregnancies and leave. A few months into the pregnancy, each woman moved to inside duty, handling reports and meeting with people in the police station. After taking three months off — which included two months paid — Jakober requested an additional three months of unpaid leave to stay home with Mason and her older son, McKael, 5.
Shove called Guilford’s police officials “phenomenal” in their response to her pregnancy.
“They were so accommodating, and it was like, ‘What hours do you want to work and what days do you want off?’ ” she said. “It took any of that added stress away and it helped me have a healthy pregnancy.”
Having worked in Guilford for about six years, Shove said she has found the department accepting of female officers. Before joining the force, she was a nursery-school teacher in Westport. Some of the male officers “tease you here and there,” she said, but the department is “pretty diverse, which is good.”
“I really see there’s a need to have women on this job,” she said. “I think we approach situations very differently than men do. I think sometimes our presence on a scene can kind of de-escalate the situation.”
Jakober said she decided she wanted to be a police officer when she was 8 years old. She started her career in the police department in Tucson, Ariz. With a force of 1,700 people, it was a very different experience from working in Guilford.
When Jakober became pregnant with McKael, she was working as an undercover narcotics officer in Tucson. The department had a light-duty maternity policy in place, so she transitioned out of the narcotics work early in her pregnancy.
After moving back to Connecticut to be closer to family, Jakober said she would have liked to have another baby sooner, but waited because Guilford did not have a policy set up for light duty during pregnancy.
Chief Thomas Terribile said the Police Commission passed a maternity policy a few years ago.
Jakober said that having two officers on leave or light duty puts a strain on the department, but there are often people out with injuries or illnesses.
“In my opinion, law enforcement is still kind of a man’s world and it’s still unusual to see (female officers),” she said. “It’s still unusual, I think, for a woman to have a family and be in law enforcement period, so the actual having a baby and the two of us at the same time have a baby, I think it was a shock for the department.”
Terribile said that in many cases the department tries to make accommodations for people to balance family and career, whether for male or female officers. He added that no one has taken extended paternity leave in the past.
“In today’s environment the wife works and so does the husband, so we’re always juggling that around,” he said. “I don’t know how they juggle it. I was lucky — my wife was a stay-at-home mom.”
Shove and Jakober used a combination of sick days and vacation to take some paid time off, as well as unpaid days. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a baby.
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., was the author of the act, which was enacted 15 years ago, and now is working to expand it to include eight weeks of paid leave. The legislation would cover paid leave for both parents for a birth or the arrival of an adopted child, as well as time for people to take care of themselves or sick relatives.
Jakober’s and Shove’s husbands also work in emergency services. Scott Jakober is a police officer in Clinton, and Mike Shove is a captain in Guilford’s fire department.
Martina Jakober works 3-11 p.m. in Guilford, while her husband works from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., so they switch off with child care. They also have family nearby when there are any scheduling conflicts.
The Shoves said they will probably have Julia in a daycare two days a week. Mike Shove works 24-hour shifts at the firehouse followed by three days off duty.
“It’s easy right now because (Joanne’s) home, but when she goes back to work, it will definitely be a challenge trying to juggle schedules,” he said.
Both families said that they did not seriously consider having one parent stay home full-time, for a combination of financial and personal reasons.
“In this day and age, it’s a two-income world,” Joanne Shove said. “As wonderful as I think it would be to be home, I think you need something for yourself, too — something that’s you and you’re not just mom the whole time.”
Scott Jakober described his wife as very committed to both her family and her career.
“She’s a great mother — she really is very dedicated towards the kids and sacrifices for their best interest and really puts them first,” he said. “She’s a very aggressive, very dedicated police officer. She knows her job very well and is very good at it.”
With two police officers for parents, many might consider it a safe bet as to what the future holds for 5-year-old McKael and 6-month Mason. Indeed, when his mother recently asked him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” McKael immediately responded, “A police officer.”