By MaryBeth Matzek
When Cynthia Estrup chose a career in law enforcement, she knew it was going to be a challenge. In her police academy class, four women were enrolled and only two — Estrup and another woman — graduated.
Today, as a police sergeant and emergency manager with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Police Department, she is one of four women holding leadership roles in Brown County law enforcement — and the only woman of color.
“Being a woman in law enforcement is a challenge since it is primarily male dominated. I had to understand how to be true to who I am while also being part of a team,” says Estrup, who joined the Wisconsin Association of Women Law Enforcement early in her career. “I met a lot of amazing female law enforcement professionals through the group who have served as mentors or just someone to bounce ideas off of. We have learned so much from each other.”
Estrup came to UW-Green Bay nine years ago after working for the UW-Whitewater police department. She says working in on-campus law enforcement is “niche policing. You can impact more people in a positive way and be more educational in your interactions. It’s not just about handing out tickets.”
Professionally, Estrup strives to keep growing and developing her skills. Last year, she took on the campus’s emergency manager role, which allows her to work more closely with staff members and students. “Your thinking goes in a whole new direction. As the snow thaws, for example, you think about and plan for possible flooding,” she says.
In her role as a sergeant with campus police, Estrup serves as the liaison to the campus’s LGB community as well as forging bridges with students of color. In both cases, she meets with the students at either the Pride Center or Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs Office (MESA) to answer questions and provide them with any information they’re looking for.
“It’s important to meet with them in that non-threatening environment and let them know we’re here as a resource,” Estrup says. “It’s all about having a conversation and being open. When I was a kid, I didn’t know what options were out there. It’s important to share with students what’s possible.”
MESA Director Mai J. Lo Lee, who nominated Estrup for a Woman of Influence Award, says Estrup’s work extends beyond the campus through her work with Brown County’s Mental Illness Committee and the county-wide Sexual Assault Response Team.
“She works with both students and faculty/staff to help open the lines of communication and offer a place where all people feel safe and comfortable to report any incident,” Lo says.
Click here to view Cynthia Estrup’s acceptance speech.