Ashley Hunter and her mother, Jan Hunter, share a lot: hobbies, sense of humor, adventurous spirit, hair color – and a career in law enforcement.
Retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Jan Hunter set an example her daughter was eager to follow.
“I’m very, very close with my mom. She’s my best friend,” said Hunter, 25. “She worked so hard to give me what I had growing up.”
This Mother’s Day, the two will celebrate the holiday with a family tradition: barbecue at the Hunters’ house with their extended family.
The Hunters are a multi-generational law enforcement clan. Ashley’s grandfather, two uncles, an aunt, and two cousins also retired from or currently work for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Her father, Jerry Hunter, worked at the Whittier Police Department and retired as Assistant Chief at the California Department of Justice.
They also come from a line of strong women. Jan’s mother, Sue Allen, raised five children, three of whom became deputies.
Jan recalled Ashley at age three or four watching the TV show “Cops.”
“She said, ‘I’m going to be a veterinarian after I get fired from being a cop,’ and I said, ‘No more “Cops” for you!’” Jan joked. “Her father and I both tried to scare her another way. As much of a blessing and as much as I gained through my career, you still are giving up an awful lot for the job.”
Instead, they suggested she become a firefighter — an idea Ashley rejected because she didn’t want to spend her nights sleeping in a fire station.
Ashley has a bachelor’s degree in public health, which she said helps her understand the community better. She’s working toward a master’s degree in leadership development. During her junior year, she decided to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Once she’d made up her mind, Ashley and her parents researched Orange County police departments. Their No. 1 pick was Anaheim.
“This is pretty much the best department,” said Ashley, now an officer at the Anaheim Police Department. “You have so many different options if you want to promote and do different details.”
Jan hadn’t considered going into law enforcement until her brother told her she couldn’t do it. She remembers taking a shorthand class in high school to prepare for a job as a secretary.
“It was never thought of that I would go into law enforcement, and I showed them I could,” Jan said, adding that she loved being a deputy and working patrol. She started as a deputy working in the jails, then on patrol before being promoted to detective, sergeant, and finally lieutenant. “I really have had a great career. I wouldn’t trade my career for anything. I’m proud of what I did, and proud of my stories.”
“It’s not a career that you can ever choose,” Jan said. “It’s a lifestyle.”
Despite the challenges of the job, the long days and nights, and the stress of the worst moments, Jan and Jerry Hunter didn’t bring the negativity home to their only child. Jan in particular used humor to lighten tough situations at home and at work – a trait Ashley says she’s inherited.
“Everything was always positive,” Ashley said. “Obviously, being in my seat now, I know that was not the case. But they did a very good job of hiding the negative aspects of the job.”
Ashley remembers the moment she realized her mother’s job involved risk – the same year her mother brought a patrol car to school show-and-tell. The date was Sept. 11, 2001, and Ashley was seven years old.
“I knew she worked in something called Twin Towers,” she said. Ashley didn’t realize multiple buildings have that moniker; her mother worked at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles.
“I started asking more questions and then I fully understood this is dangerous. I remember I would cry when she would leave for work. I would watch her leave and pray that she would come home,” Ashley said.
When Ashley chose law enforcement, her mother had several pieces of advice: Find a female mentor, help other women succeed, know when to back off and when to come on strong, and gain the wisdom of knowing how to approach people.
“I do believe women are being more accepted into law enforcement,” Jan said. “I told her, ‘It’s getting better, but you’re still a female in a male’s world and you have to stick up for yourself and be stubborn and be the best you can be.’”
“She’s done a good job and I’m really proud of her.”