Burnsville Swears in First Female Police Captain
Capt. Tanya Schwartz, replacement for Eric Werner, could be the only woman to have attained such a rank in Dakota County.
Burnsville, say hello to Tanya Schwartz, the city's first female police captain. Schwartz replaces Capt. Eric Werner, who recently left the department to become the chief of police for the City of Rosemount.
On Sept. 10, she was sworn in as captain. It's an unprecedented move for both the Burnsville Police Department and Schwartz as a person.
"Scaling the ladder really wasn't my focus. Coming here I just wanted to be the best cop I could be," Schwartz said.
Schwartz joined the BPD seventeen years ago. Prior to her promotion, she was a sergeant for 11 years. Mayor Elizabeth Kautz fondly recalled Schwartz's first days with the agency as a rookie cop, which coincided with her early career as a new mayor.
"I love it," Kautz said. "I think it's wonderful."
Schwartz grew up in northeast Minneapolis. Schwartz went to school at Augsburg College, where she earned a Bachelor's in psychology and sociology. In a roundabout way, her interest in human behavior and early experiences with a helpful school liaison officer led her to a career in policing. After graduating from Augsburg, she started work on a law enforcement degree through Metro State University's School of Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice.
Schwartz is one of a select group. The first female cops began making inroads into the profession in the early 20th century, but policing is still a relatively uncommon career choice for women, though their ranks have grown over the last 20 years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of 2007, about 1 in 8 local police officers were women (12.5 percent). By contrast, in 1987 only 8 percent of the nation's police were female.
When Schwartz joined up with Burnsville as a Community Service Officer (CSO) in 1995, she was pleasantly surprised by the department's open, supportive environment.
"I didn't really know what to expect. Would it be really rigid?" Schwartz said. "I just wasn't sure. But the culture here at Burnsville is phenomenal."
"They really care about the people who work here," She added. "People want to see you succeed."
At the time, there were several female cops. In 2011, the department employed over 10 sworn female officers, including five female investigators under Schwartz's supervision.
"For us it isn't anything different—having women in law enforcement," Schwartz said. "We're pretty fortunate here."
In 1996 she became a full-fledged police officer, a street cop. Schwartz's first years followed the ups and downs of the daily patrol—a random and unpredictable mix that includes taking medical calls, breaking up fights, and even a chase or two.
"Every day was different and I think that's what I really loved. You'd have those great calls where you could really make a connection and do something really good," Schwartz said. "And some days you'd be in a domestic situation where you're just trying to maintain calm. You're right there in the moment, and you have to solve the issue right then, but what I also liked to do is think of how you could help these people after the fact, once you're gone."
Before long, Schwartz had moved on to the crime scene unit, where she processed evidence from a range of cases, from homicides down to vehicle thefts. Evidence gathering and investigations proved to be her strong suit: Until her promotion, Schwartz was tasked with overseeing crime scene investigations.
Becoming a captain offers Schwartz a new challenge. As captain, Schwartz commands patrol operations, with about 40 officers and eight patrol sergeants roaming the streets day-to-day. She also oversee a number of specialty positions such as the SWAT team, CSO trainers, field trainers, and the domestic abuse response team.
"It's a real honor. I feel like I owe a lot to this department," Schwartz said. "I've worked hard, but depending on what agency you're in you don't always have those opportunities."
Schwartz's appointment is just one of many changes on the way for the BPD. In July, Chief Bob Hawkins announced that he would retire before the end of this year. Rumor has it, that current Capt. Eric Gieske is a likely candidate for the top spot, which would open up a second captain's position at the BPD.