July 24, 2013

A female cop in a man’s world

By Olivia Sundeen    
Farmer Intern

Last Wednesday I went on a ride-along with Watford City Police Sgt. Shannon Monnens. Within the first five minutes, she asked me a series of questions.
They went something like, “Do you know how to shoot a shotgun?” Followed by, “Do you  have a cell phone? And, “Do you have someone to call in case we get into a high pursuit chase and I need to drop you off on the side of the road?”
Needless to say, my first impression of this 5’7” police officer who wore her blonde, curly hair back in a messy bun while sporting a navy uniform with a bullet-proof vest underneath occasionally uttering a few profanities here and there was, “Wow, who is this chick?”
Originally from Minnesota, Monnens found her way to Watford City, N.D. about two years ago.
“I have not regretted a second of it,” stated Monnens of her move. “This is the best thing I could’ve done - experience and career-wise.”
During her first month as a police officer in Watford, Monnens realized she was in for a rude awakening.
“I got my nose busted in the first month of being on duty,” stated Monnens. “I realized that holy crap, this town means business.”
Monnens credits this incident for basically saving her life, because from then, she knew how to prepare herself.
So, the question on my mind, and essentially the reason for my ride-along was, what is a day really like in the life of Police Sgt. Monnens?
“It’s tiring,” stated Monnens. “Basically, it consists of lack of sleep, no social life, pissing people off and dealing with stress.”
According to Monnens, she deals with all types of crime. Theft, traffic control, stabbings, DUIs - you name it, and she has seen it.
“I guess the only thing I haven’t really done is save a baby,” stated Monnens. “But I have never killed anyone either, so that says something.”
Needless to say, her life could be described as anything but dull. Three energy drinks on top of two cups of coffee helps Monnens get through her crazy shifts whether they are from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. or 6 a.m. to 6 p.m, it’s a non-stop job.
“Mentally, this job is hard,” stated Monnens. “We run on barely any sleep, and we see stuff that is just not normal. The stress of it all is the hardest.”
According to Monnens, the stress is enough to make you lose your mind.
“You have to have a channel to talk and let your stress out,” stated Monnens. “If I ever start to dread work, I like to hang out with kids, because it reminds me at one time everyone was innocent.”
Although Monnens is a female in an ever-increasing, male-dominated area, she doesn’t let her gender define her.
“I can keep up with the guys just like the rest of ’em,” stated Monnens. “However, it is a pain in the butt being a chick, mostly because this uniform was not made for woman’s hips.”
Monnens actually believes being a female cop in a male-dominated area has its advantages.
“Guys want to be macho with guys,” stated Monnens. “When I come, the guys seem to cool off and are always very respectful of me. It’s like they view me as a mother figure or something.”
Throughout my ride-along with Monnens, I began to realize how important relationships are - especially for those in law enforcement.
“I don’t have the tolerance for people in my life that make poor decisions,” stated Monnens. “Luckily, my co-workers are like a second family. We vent and can relate to each other. It’s a different kind of relationship when you have to trust your life with that person.”
Whether male or female, a police officer needs to be someone  who has the desire to help people, despises the idea of sitting in the office all day and is able to, for the most part, remain unaffected by stomach-upsetting situations - someone like Shannon Monnens.
“I laugh a lot, so my job must not be that bad,” stated Monnens. “As a police officer, I have to often remind myself that 98 percent of society wants to obey the law. It’s the two percent we deal with that doesn’t. It’s easy to forget that.”
According to Monnens, when you are first new, everything that happens on the job seems crazy. What might be memorable to a normal person is easily forgettable.
“After awhile, things just don’t surprise you,” stated Monnens. “It’s just another day in the life.”