New woman on the beat
Standing at 5-feet, 4-inches tall, the Grass Valley Police Department’s first full-time female officer is fresh out of the academy and looks more like a high school student than a cop.
But don’t let her youthful demeanor fool you.
Officer Deborah Bayer, 22, said her reasons for going into law enforcement are pretty simple.
“This may sound like your standard answer, but I want to help people, to make a difference,” Bayer said.
She views her job as a daily adventure.
“Each day is its own battle,” she said. “Every situation is different.”
This athlete and daughter of a California Department of Justice investigator is full of surprises. Take, for example, her extensive training in several kinds of martial arts, including tae kwon do, Brazilian jiu jitsu, sambo and kickboxing.
Grass Valley Police Chief John Foster, Capt. Dave Remillard and Sgt. Doug Hren said Bayer’s positive attitude make her a nice fit for the department.
“She’ll do well here,” Remillard said.
Going on patrol
When Bayer moved from her hometown of Roseville to Grass Valley a few years ago, she worked at a local pet store until she was 21 – the minimum age to apply to the department.
Bayer has been patrolling Grass Valley’s streets for a month with Officer Gary McClaughry, her field training officer. In about five more months, she’ll be patrolling on her own.
As the two cruised the streets in a patrol car on a recent evening, McClaughry recalled the time he visited Bayer at the academy in Sacramento. He talked with other cadets who had just finished boxing with Bayer as part of their training.
“They were scared of her,” McClaughry said. “They said they were glad she’s on the side of the good guys, because they wouldn’t want to encounter her as a bad guy on the street.”
McClaughry predicted a bright future for the young recruit.
“She’s one of the most eager trainees I’ve ever known,” he said. “It’s obvious she paid attention in the academy. She knows how to calm people down so she can get information out of them. Sometimes trainees are shy, but not her. She’s always ready to do something.”
As Bayer patrolled the streets, she noted how people respond to the presence of a police car.
“People turn on their headlights, put on their seatbelts,” she said. “Our presence makes people feel safe.”
She’s always on the lookout for vehicle code violations. Stopping someone for a busted light or expired registration, she said, can be a precursor to discovering something more serious, such as a drug violation.
Bayer noticed a brake light was out on a white Chevy Astro van driving on East Main Street. She followed it as it turned onto Bennett Street, waiting to turn on her flashing lights until she reached a safe spot to pull over.
She approached the driver, a man who appeared to be in his late 20s, with her hand placed on her holstered gun.
She smiled at him, and asked to see his license, registration and insurance, then issued a warning.
“He was really nice,” Bayer said.
Lucky to be a police officer
During her month on the streets, Bayer has written one ticket for driving without insurance and responded to a few bar fights.
“About six pretty large guys were involved in the fight at (a downtown Grass Valley bar),” she said. “It got really out of hand. One guy was bleeding so bad, it appeared he had been hit with some kind of an instrument.”
Bayer’s family, including two older brothers and three older sisters, is supportive of her decision to become a police officer, though they worry about her safety.
She said she has no fear because of her training. She feels lucky every day to be working for a department that nurtures its recruits and helps them succeed as police officers, she said.
“I feel like I’m part of a family, not just the rookie,” Bayer said.
The only time she feels like the odd woman out is when she’s changing in and out of her uniform.
“I notice I’m the only female when I’m standing alone in the locker room,” she said with a mock frown.
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@ theunion.com or call 477-4236.
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