Growing up in inner city New Jersey, Regina Scott always saw police officers strolling into her community, but she never saw an African American female in uniform.
“Then I saw Christie Love, and knew I wanted to become a police officer,” recalls Scott, who chose that route even though people steadily told her it wouldn’t happen.
Undeterred, Scott began plotting a career course that would prepare her for that dream job.
“I started with the military, because I thought it would help me with structure,” Scott said. But instead of moving into law enforcement, marriage and childbearing came next. But that desire did not go away.
“I was stationed in Germany . . . and every Thursday was library day for my kids. I would go to read and see what was going on.”
One of the items she eventually came across after three years in the army, was an ad for the Los Angeles Police Department.
“It said are you a Black female, who always wanted to be a police officer,” said Scott, who was then 27, and knew that ad was her fate calling. “I said if you don’t do it now, you are never ever going to do that . . . this dream that I had (almost) given up on. I wanted to have this place where I can make a difference. When you watched television, it was all about cops and robbers, but you didn’t see us.”
And Scott just knew she could make a difference.
“But there was no way I ever dreamed I would be a first something or be a role model for someone else. I just wanted a chance to do my job, go after the bad guys and put them in jail; and to go to court and testify and to wear the uniform.”
Immediately returning from Germany, Scott took her shot at the LAPD’s testing and training process, made the grade, and started as a rookie officer in 1987. From there she climbed the ladder to training officer and up to the post of senior lead officer.
“I loved that job; it was my favorite job,” explained Scott, the passion she held for that position is still obvious in her voice. “You’re the voice for the community. You have that connection. You have patrol officers who deal with the community, and you help resolve those problems in the community,” added Scott, who remembers that this job gave her that first taste of just what it might be like to be a captain. “It really was a taste of how you could make a difference in the community. Police officers have the funding, the money, the resources to be the voice for the little old lady who probably won’t be heard.”
Scott spent three years as senior lead officer at the Wilshire Division before moving on to detective (all three grades), sergeant and all three ranks as a captain. Her jobs at this rank included patrol captain at the Southwest Division. There she headed the gang operations and support division.
Next it was on to the communications division. Today, she is currently in charge of that division which includes a staff of more than 500, responsible for handling and dispatching more than two million service calls annually. But on Oct. 10, she will move into a new and historical post as assisting commanding officer of the information technology bureau.
As she steps into this role, after 23 years on the force and a long 10 years after the first Black woman was promoted to captain within the LAPD, Scott makes history as the highest ranking African American woman officer in the 140-year history of the LAPD, and in the 100 years since women were first allowed to join the ranks.
“Chief Beck recognized her talent,” said Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, the highest-ranking Black in the LAPD . . . he didn’t necessarily promote Commander Scott because she is Black. She just happens to be Black. She is one of the talented members of the organization whose work, experience and aptitude permitted (the chief) to elevate her to this extraordinary position. She numbers in an elite group. She is the first female African American appointed to the post.”
Paysinger said Scott is one of four other women on the police department’s executive commanding staff.
“She now joins an (s)elect group of individuals that will help forge a positive path for LAPD,” Paysinger added.
Scott is well aware of the shoulders on which she now stands in this position, and that includes those of the more senior African American women officers like Captain, Ann Young and Anita Ortega.
“When the call came, I was very surprised and very shocked. That’s not to say it wasn’t overdue, and that’s not to say I was not capable. It just lets you know cracking the ceiling is possible; we can come up the ranks and are able to rank and have a say in the politicks and procedures and decisions made . . . My hope was for those who had come before me. I was hoping I could ride their coattail all the way up. But that’s not to say I am not worthy. I worked hard, held the right commands and the right positions. I just did not think it would be me.”
Now that it is her, Scott–who called Chief Charlie Beck courageous for taking a step he did not have to take and embracing diversity–is well aware of that old age: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Her first order of business is to prove to any doubters that she is more than qualified to handle the position.
A second major concern is that like Captain Young, Scott wants to make sure she reaches back to help others. Finally, although the New Jersey transplant’s new assignment does not put her directly in contact with the community, she intends to make those connections on her own, and is looking forward to taking that knowledge back to her colleagues in the LAPD executive ranks in hopes of making more policies that further recognize the needs and wants of the community.