Female police officers discuss challenges, support and success
By Jason Arndt
Based on federal law enforcement data, recruiting police officers, particularly women, has been an ongoing challenge for many communities throughout the country.
According to a recent Law Enforcement Bulletin, which is a publication of the FBI, women make up only 12% of sworn officers, with 3% holding leadership positions such as police chief.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who appeared at a law enforcement conference this summer, said more women are needed in the field.
“Simply put, more women in law enforcement means better outcomes for us all – those we do the work for and those we do the work with,” she said.
In the City of Burlington, the police department faces a similar dilemma, with 9% of the patrol force consisting of women.
Burlington Police Chief Brian Zmudzinski said the national data did not come as a surprise, considering many law enforcement agencies have encountered increased challenges recruiting qualified candidates.
“Despite increased efforts in trying to recruit and hire additional women in the profession, challenges continue,” he said.
Despite those challenges, two officers within the city’s police force have found rewarding careers in law enforcement.
Detective Jodi Borchardt, as well as patrol officer Natalie Orre, each said they always had an interest in law enforcement.
Dispatcher to officer
Growing up in the Kenosha area, where she graduated from the Kenosha Unified School District, Borchardt moved to the area with her husband, a Burlington resident, and started as a police dispatcher with the department in 2007.
Borchardt said she had her sights set on becoming a police officer but didn’t think she had a chance.
“I just didn’t know I would get the opportunity to do it, and (the city) gave me the opportunity,” she said, so she enrolled in Gateway Technical College’s law enforcement program.
Early in her career, Borchardt said she received support from retired officer Tom Kelter and Det. Rodney Thurin about her desire to pursue becoming an officer.
“They just encouraged me to become a patrol officer,” she said.
Since being selected as an officer in 2009, Borchardt has worn many hats with the department, including school resource officer and field training officer. She now serves as the day shift detective.
For Borchardt, becoming a detective elevated her career to another level where she found her purpose.
“This is always where I wanted to be,” she said. “I found my niche.”
Fascinated by science
Orre said she initially wanted to become a fashion designer before law enforcement piqued her interest when she was attending Racine Park High School.
“I got more interested in the crime shows. I found it fascinating because of the amount of work put into an investigation and how something as little as a piece of hair or piece of DNA can crack the case,” Orre explained.
She said she recognized several key pieces working together, including patrol officers, investigators and crime lab technicians, in an effort to solve a case.
Orre eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic science with a minor in chemistry from Marian University in Fond du Lac before returning to southeastern Wisconsin.
Orre also enrolled at Gateway Technical College academy and joined the city’s police force in April 2021.
During the application process, she said she found Burlington interesting, since she had experienced the former Burlington Chocolate Fest as a child and spent time with family in Browns Lake.
When she interviewed with city officials, Orre said it was a positive experience and she enjoyed talking to officers and other department staff.
“It really felt like a family, and that is what really drew me to Burlington,” she said.
Orre, a third-shift patrol officer, completed training to become a field training officer – which she did to help the department fill a need.
“I had FTOs that really helped me make it here, so I want to be able to do that for other officers,” she said.
“I just want to be there for them and help them as best as I can,” Orre added.
For the full story, pick up the Dec. 7 print edition of the Burlington Standard Press.