Marcela Haskins, a lieutenant with Bakersfield Police Department, knew she wanted to be the kind of mom who ate dinner with her kids, helped with homework and was there for hugs at bedtime.
But she also aspired to be a police officer — the kind who went out on calls in the middle of the night, who broke narcotic cases in different parts of the state and who patrolled the streets to keep the public safe.
So, like many working parents, Haskins decided to juggle both.
She took the graveyard shifts at the police department so she could spend the days with her kids and work while they were sleeping.
Her family helped with weekday sleepovers, assisting with pick-ups and drop-offs and showing up for school events or extracurriculars when Haskins had to work.
At the time, Haskins admits she never thought what she was doing was extraordinary. But now, when she thinks about everything, she did to get through it – she cannot believe she made it.
“Having done all of this for 20 years now, sometimes I sit down and reflect and ask myself ‘how did I get here?’ and I just don’t know I did it all, but I did,” Haskins said. “I was a single mom for a part of that time … and it was definitely hard having to deal with all the things I did. But I just did it. I couldn’t have done any of it without my family.”
Haskins, born and raised in Bakersfield, is 1 of 46 female police officers who make up the team of 431 sworn officers at Bakersfield Police Department. The Bakersfield Police Department is continually recruiting and looking for female officers who want to join the force and continue the strides being made by Haskins and her fellow female colleagues.
For the span of her career, Haskins juggled her two jobs as mother and police officer, taking off one hat and putting on her holster. She was able to balance both with the help of her extended family, who all live in Bakersfield and were happy to pitch in.
“It wasn’t uncommon for me to come home from a call out, and then be on the road to catch up with my family or head out to a game where my son was already on the road playing baseball,” Haskins said. “Then I’d come home and just pick it all back up. My No. 1 was being a mom, so it’s just what I did.”
Haskins has been with the Bakersfield Police Department since she took an internship there in high school. Although at the time she didn’t think she would end up in law enforcement, all arrows pointed her toward the field.
“People ask me all the time what made me want to become a police officer and I think I was just intrigued by it,” she said. “I don’t have any family in law enforcement, and I wasn’t that kid in school who did a project on becoming a police officer. I just formed awesome relationships during my internship, and one officer took me under his wing. I don’t know what he saw in me, but he encouraged me to keep going until he asked me if I wanted to become an officer.”
Haskins, who was recently promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and assigned to Operations-Patrol as a Watch Commander, has had the privilege of seeing more women enter law enforcement for a career. She realizes the importance of her decision, especially to young girls and young women who look to her and the other female officers as role models.
“It’s truly indescribable when someone comes up to me and they are interested in what I do,” Haskins said. “They always want to know how long I’ve been doing it and if it’s hard … some women consider it, but they don’t think it is something they can do.”
Haskins said she always admits to anyone asking about a career in law enforcement that it is challenging and requires a certain amount of sacrifice.
But in the end, her love of her profession also gives her the balance she needs as a mom and a woman.
“It is definitely hard. You have to put a lot of you out there emotionally, and physically you have to prepare for it,” she said. “You also have to know that you will miss events with your children, your family, your friends. There is a lot that comes with this job, but I always tell myself ‘the only limits are the limits we place on ourselves’.”