Val Demings’ parents—her mother a maid and her father a janitor—never graduated from high school, but they instilled in their daughter the message that Demings could “Do more, be more and have more.” After 24 years in law enforcement, Demings was appointed to Chief of Police, becoming Orlando’s first female Police Chief and proving to young girls and women everywhere that they too could do more, be more and have more.
Attending a segregated school until sixth grade, Demings overcame tremendous hardship and discrimination. Growing up black, poor and female, Demings heard her fair share of “no’s.” But for Demings, the “no’s” motivated her all the more: “The more people told me I could not do something, it just made me more and more determined to do just that.”
At the police academy, despite her small stature—5’4 tall and weighing 120lbs—and the fact that she was one of very few women, Demings was still elected class president by her peers. Unstoppable, she graduated at the top of her class and received the Board of Trustees Award for Overall Excellence. Her determination paid off as she rose up the ranks to become Chief of Police. Male officers, unfamiliar with reporting to a female boss, often challenged her authority. Over time, however, she established herself as a force to be reckoned with and received the respect she deserved. “Brains are much more important than brawn in police work.”
In addition to making a name for herself as Chief of Police, Demings also met her husband and “biggest cheerleader” Jerry Demings while in the force. Like Val, Jerry also had a historic career with the Orlando police force, serving as its first African American Police Chief. The two met when they were assigned to the same case, and they have continued to work together, supporting each other’s careers ever since.
Val Demings is now running for Mayor of Orange County, Florida. (We wish her the best of luck!) For more information about her campaign, visit: http://www.valdemings.com
More From Val
Rough and Tough
In this MAKERS interview, Val Demings talks about what she was like growing up, her perspective on being a girl, and how society shapes what we believe boys and girls should or shouldn't be.
Integration and Racism
In the 6th grade, Val Demings was faced with racism at her elementary school. She was ultimately able to overcome this because her parents raised her to believe that she was as smart and as capable as anyone else.
The Most Important Weapon
Although Val Demings is only 5 foot 4 inches, she proves that the most important thing a Chief of Police can bring to the table is his or her mind.
Shutting Down Naysayers
When Val Demings was promoted to sergeant, a few of her officers challenged her authority, but she quickly shut them down.
Bold, Aggressive and Focused
In this MAKERS interview, Val Demings talks about the "bold, aggressive, focused" strategy she implemented within the the police department to take on the "worst of the worst."
Reducing Crime and Making Change
Orlando's first female Chief of Police realized serious change in the community had to happen after she got the call about a triple homicide in the middle of the day. To do so, Val created out of the box initiatives to raise the community up, and wound up decreasing crime by 32 percent.
Running for Congress
Orlando's first female Chief of Police Val Demings talks about her run for Congress in 2012. Although her run was unsuccessful, what she took away from the experience was still valuable.
A Sheriff and a Police Chief
In this MAKERS interview, Val Demings talks about how her husband Jerry ran and was elected for Orange County Sheriff, making Val and Jerry a power couple in charge of the two largest law enforcement agencies in the region.
Love and Law Enforcement
Orlando's first female Chief of Police, Val Demings, recounts the story of how she and her husband Jerry Demings met over Val's admonishment of Jerry's efforts when they crossed paths in law enforcement.
The Secret to Having It All
In this MAKERS interview, Val Demings shares why she believes that women can "have it all." They just have to know what they want and be more open to asking for help.
Shirley Chisholm's Unsurmountable Courage
Val Demings, Orlando's first female Chief of Police, talks about Shirley Chisholm's impact on her as a young black girl and how Chisholm's "unsurmountable courage" created an incredible legacy for women to follow.