Sandra Thompson was the first black woman to become a Michigan State Police trooper.
Thompson graduated from state police recruit school in 1974 and retired in 1999 after 25 years at the Lansing and state Capitol posts. She became the first black female sergeant in 1985.
“In very, very difficult times, Sandy was truly a trailblazer,” said her friend and fellow trooper Sandy Miller. “It was not easy in her early years in the state police and yet she held her head up high and she wore that uniform proudly.”
In 1974, Thompson and the few other female officers were technically classified as policewomen. It wasn’t until 1975 that the state police allowed women to be troopers.
“It’s hard enough in those days just being a female,” said Thompson’s sister, Susan Pope. “Being a black female you stood out even more. It was definitely difficult.”
Thompson grew up in Detroit and studied teaching at Wayne State University before deciding the field was too crowded.
She spent most of her state police career in juvenile-related roles. She worked in crime prevention services, which oversaw programs in schools. She also was in charge of the missing and exploited children program and ran summer law enforcement career camps for teens.
“A lot of young people are probably now in the criminal justice field because of Sandy,” Miller said.
Thompson also was instrumental in starting a program that provided troopers with teddy bears to give to children at accident scenes or other situations, said state police Lt. Karla Christiansen.
Now (October 2009), there are 13 black women in the state police enlisted ranks, which range from trooper to colonel, said Melody Kindraka, state police spokeswoman. In all, there are a total of 1,679 officers in those ranks, of which 202 are women.
Melissa Domsic, “Delta Twp. resident recalled as ‘trailblazer'”, Lansing State Journal, October 31, 2009.
“Trooper in Culottes Just ‘One of the Boys'”, Lansing State Journal, October 11, 1974, p34.