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NEWS & IDEAS

Val Demings: The first woman police chief

As a little girl, Val Demings never wanted to be a princess. Instead she had dreams of being a lawyer or an astronaut. Demings grew up in rural Florida, the youngest of seven children. She lived in a small house, her mother worked as a housekeeper and her father as a janitor, and attended segregated schools until high school. 

After graduating, Demings decided to try her hand at a police academy. Not only was she one of very few women at the academy, but she didn't embody the stereotypical build of a police officer at just 5’4’’ and 120 pounds. She graduated top of her class. “Brains are much more important than brawn in police work.” 

Demings went on to become the first woman to serve as Chief for the Orlando Police Department. As Police Chief, she truly transformed Orlando using her brains. During her tenure, she reduced violent crime (including robberies, shooting and murders) by 40 percent.

Even when challenged by male officers who had never worked for a woman, Demings didn’t let fear get in the way of ambition. Learn more about her story in the video above.