On Patrol With a ‘Superwoman’

Officer Is at Home on the Streets of Ward 7


From Superwoman

Dispatcher: “Domestic violence call. Woman having seizure. Minnesota Avenue.”

Officer Elizabeth Bradshaw answers the dispatcher as she puts on her siren and speeds through the streets of Ward 7 to a woman’s apartment in a small, brown brick building across from the Minnesota Avenue Metro station. Inside the apartment, paramedics are helping the young woman. Officers then ask her child’s father what happened and if he hit her. The father, who is already agitated, gives the officers the information that they need.

As Bradshaw tries to talk to the man in a calm manner, he closes the door in her face. She is a firm believer in informing people being questioned about what is going on and letting them know why police officers do the things they do.

It’s just another day on the job, Bradshaw stresses, making sure the young woman is safe and on her way to the hospital.

As she waits to patrol a funeral procession outside the Church of Incarnation at 800 Eastern Ave. N.E., she describes a day in the life of a police officer.

Bradshaw wakes up at 5:30 a.m. and puts on her police uniform — a long-sleeved, light blue shirt and navy pants with black boots. Her hair is pulled back in a bun with bangs. She then goes to roll call where the sergeant gives her assignments for the day. Next, it’s time for her to patrol the streets of Ward 7. Throughout the day, she responds to calls from the dispatcher. Calls can include a lost property report, armed car jacking or a shooting. At 3:30 p.m., it’s time to go home.

When she is not on duty as a police officer, she works security part time at Best Buy on Wisconsin Avenue. On Tuesdays, she attends Bible study at the Holy Christian House of Praise on Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue Northeast.

Life has not always been like this for Elizabeth Bradshaw. She was a teenage mother of three, on welfare and living in public housing. She was featured in a series of articles in the Washington Post about how women cope after welfare. She has also appeared on “Oprah.”

“When my youngest son was 9 months, I put him in day care, and I decided I didn’t want to be on welfare all my life,” Bradshaw explained. “I started volunteering with the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization , so I could learn any type of skill, answering phones, greeting customers. I didn’t want to get paid. I just wanted the experience.”

Not only is she still an avid volunteer, but she has also been a devoted mother to her children. Realizing that her youngest son was dyslexic, she made sure he got the proper care and tutoring needed to succeed. Such experiences make it easier for her to help other teenage mothers who need resources.

After a decade of being on welfare, she got a job, but the company began laying off employees. Bradshaw decided that it was time for her to get a job that offered security.

“I had a job as a receptionist at the D.C. Private Industry Council , but they started laying people off,” she said. “I was on the bus and saw that they were hiring for the Metropolitan Police Department with benefits, so I signed up.”

Bradshaw, 39, has been working at the Sixth District Police Department for 11 years. Not only does she work in Ward 7, but she also has been living there since the age of 11.

When she finished the police academy, she was assigned to the First District , which includes Southwest D.C. She asked her sergeant if she could work where she lives and where the streets and the people are all familiar.

“I wanted to work where I have a sense of home. I know almost everybody, everybody knows me and I’m comfortable.”

In the patrol car, she listens to the dispatcher route calls of attempted robbery, kids tampering with a car and someone dumping gasoline.

Bradshaw believes that most of the severe calls are not during her shift but during power shifts from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., and midnight shifts from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

“My favorite shift was the midnight shift, because I had more severe calls,” she said. “For me, working evenings was good because in the daytime, I was able to be there for my kids, go to their schools and talk to their teachers.”

At 5 feet 9, she’s unfazed by calls that involve guns. One incident that really stuck with her was when a foster mother physically abused an infant.

Outside the Sixth District Precinct, Sgt. Raymond Chambers describes what it’s like to work with Bradshaw.

“I had the pleasure of working with Officer Bradshaw for a couple of years,” Chambers said. “She likes helping her community out, and there’s nothing you can ask her that she would not do. She is a pleasant person, and she loves her job.”

The precinct is quiet and empty. On the walls are plaques of officers killed in the line of duty, and pictures of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Ward 7 Council Member Yvette Alexander . Bradshaw, who is always helping people, stops to assist an elderly man who was wondering where could he pick up his accident report. Back inside the patrol car, Bradshaw drives through public housing complexes such as Lincoln Heights and Clay Terrace as people stare with puzzled looks on their faces. Men converse, young women laugh as they walk down the street and little kids run after one another.

When she sees a pink Barbie car that’s parked in an actual parking space, Bradshaw laughs. “That is so cute — only in public housing.”

She explains how having been on public assistance contributes to her actions as a police officer. When Bradshaw was on public assistance, she said she felt like a second-class citizen. People assumed that she couldn’t read or write. She vowed that when she got off welfare, she would do her best to bring others to her level and not forget where she came from.

“I always make sure that people are treated the way that I wanted to be treated when I was in their position,” Bradshaw said. “Whenever I go into a home and a person is like ‘you don’t understand,’ I tell them, I used to be in their place. This makes me appreciate being a police officer.”

While at work, Bradshaw tries to give back in anyway she can. If she is answering a call for domestic violence, she goes the extra mile, because she, too, was a victim of domestic violence. She offers advice and counseling and even checks up on the victim.

Riding around, Bradshaw sees Officer David Tucker who is responding to a dispatch. They have known each other for eight years. Tucker says that Bradshaw is wonderful to work with and is very passionate about her job.

Bradshaw grew up with her older sister and mother, a single working parent, in the Greenway Apartments, now Meadow Greens Courts. She never knew her father, but she is trying to find him. She says nonchalantly that she had a “clumsy” childhood with a series of mishaps. She was even in a full body cast with her legs in traction, because she was hit by a car at the age of 6.

The officer loved school and always had perfect attendance.

“I was one of the students who would stay after class on the last day of school to help the teachers. I was an average student. If my mother struggled, I didn’t see the struggle. I had a good childhood.”

According to Bradshaw, she is the true definition of a superwoman. While juggling responsibilities at home, at work and in the community, she instills both perseverance and the importance of education in her children.

Both her sons are in college. Her oldest son, Wayne Jones, is 22 and attends Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio. He is majoring in Political Science.

Her youngest son, Denard Hawkins, is 18 and attends Virginia State University. He is majoring in Sports Management.

Her 20-year-old daughter, Drenika Mosby, is in the Navy, training in Great Lakes, Ill.

“Right now I am paying for my kids to go to school so they can finish; then I’m going to go back.”

Bradshaw’s motto is don’t sweat the small stuff. She loves dealing with people as an officer and as a community member.

“If I know you or if I don’t know you, I am going to treat you like my family or one of my children,” said Bradshaw, known to many as Cookie since she was a baby. “This is second nature for me, because I am a mother.”

“In my opinion, I am a very caring person — especially toward juveniles,” she explained. “I try to let them see things from another perspective. For example, if there is a child who stole a car, I tell them to look at the situation as if it was their mother’s car.”

Bradshaw has also served on the board of directors of the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization. Right now, she helps with security for her pastor and is a member of the Metropolitan Bowling League.

In the future, she plans to pursue a degree in mortuary science. If that doesn’t work out, then she would like to become a court marshal.

“In my house, failure is not an option.”