Biloxi cop thrives in a male-dominated profession
Ashleigh Pack had no idea what Glamour magazine planned to do with a survey a police administrator asked her to complete.
When the September edition hit news stands and mailboxes, the police officer saw her picture and a quote in “50 States of Women.” It’s a report from an updated nationwide survey of 2,000 women who wrote about their self-esteem and hopes for the future. The story on Glamour’s website also includes Pack’s picture plus a quote from one of her answers to what you’ve overcome or accomplished.
Pack, a patrol officer for the Biloxi Police Department, is the only woman from Mississippi whose picture and comments are included in the report.
The three questions were intentionally vague. Respondents were not told of the purpose of the survey.
Pack was pleasantly surprised. The survey shows an increasing majority of women feel good about progress on their life goals and believe their lives will be better in five years. The overall results mirror Pack’s beliefs. She believes her life is good, America is the land of opportunity, and hope is within reach.
When asked what she believes in, Pack told Glamour, “Hard work and persistence are the basis to living the life you want to live. ... I wish more people would realize bad experiences in life, some worse than others, are necessary to mold us into the people we are meant to be.”
The Vancleave native said hard work and persistence have shaped her into who she is today.
You have the opportunity to become whoever you want to be ... if you are willing to work for it. I am living proof of that as a college graduate of two parents without college degrees and a female in a male-dominated profession.
Ashleigh Pack, Biloxi police officer
Pack is soft-spoken and petite at 5-foot-2.
“When I need to be heard,” she said, “I use my growl voice.”
She decided she wanted to work in criminal justice and law enforcement when she was 14. One day she was watching a TV episode of “Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit” with her mother. Pack admired Olivia, an investigator portrayed by Mariska Hargitay.
Pack recalls telling her mother, “I’m going to be ‘Olivia,’ when I grow up.”
So began Pack’s steps toward the career of her choice. She graduated from Vancleave High School in 2004 and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2008 from the University of Southern Mississippi. She graduated from the Harrison County Law Enforcement Academy in 2010.
Police academy toughened her up for the job. Pack said she was the only female in her class and was never treated differently by her instructors or other cadets.
“I was required to perform the same mentally and physically as all the men,” she said.
Pack said she has had to work “extra hard” in some respects to get where she is today because police work remains a male-dominated profession.
Her professional accomplishments provided the answer to a second survey question.
‘She knows how to handle herself’
After police academy, she worked for the Moss Point and Hattiesburg police departments and then the Lamar County Sheriff’s Department. Along with patrol work on day and night shifts, she has worked with narcotics and gang prevention task forces and in the investigation of sexual assaults.
She joined the Biloxi Police Department as a patrol officer about a year ago.
“She knows how to handle herself,” said Officer John Lewis, Pack’s riding partner.
“She can disarm people with verbal judo. And she does it very well.”
Lewis has no qualms in having a female partner. He trusts Pack to have his back.
“When you’re in a car with a person 12 hours a day, you really get to know them,” he said.
There’s times that Pack can ease tension in a situation because she’s a woman, Lewis said.
“And if we need to search a female, I’m really glad she’s the one to do it,” he said.
“It’s awesome working with her. She’s worked investigations and sexual assault cases and is well-rounded in those areas while my background is patrol. We make a good team.”
Pack also balances motherhood with 12-hour shifts as a Biloxi patrol officer.
She’s the single mother of an active 3-year-old daughter, who is enrolled in gymnastics classes.
Pack said she doesn’t have much “me” time because when she’s not working, she’s with her daughter.
“But I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said.
Pack enjoys attending local events and concerts, though travel is her passion.
“Whether it’s an hour up the road or a 10-hour plane ride, I don’t care,” she said.
“I’ve been out of the country and made shorter travels. I just like to travel to meet new people and see what it’s like in other places.”
Living proof of hard work
Biloxi Police Maj. Jim Adamo is the one who asked Pack if she would participate in the Glamour survey after someone contacted the police department.
The survey comes from a Harris Poll commissioned by Glamour and L’Oreal Paris. The survey was to update Glamour’s self-esteem survey, last updated in 2015.
This year’s survey shows 75 percent of women feel they are moving forward with their life goals and 67 percent have hope that they will be better off within five years. Two years ago, only 42 percent of those polled showed such optimism, the article says.
The third survey question was a fill-in-the-blank on how respondents describe “My America.”
America has limitless opportunities and freedoms, Pack wrote, adding this:
“It doesn’t matter your race, your religion, economic status or your gender; you have the opportunity to become whoever you want to be. I am not saying that it will be easy and that it will be handed to you, but the opportunity is always there if you are willing to work for it.
“I am living proof of that as a college graduate of two parents without college degrees and a female in a male-dominated profession.”
About the series
Our Kind of People is a feature in the Sun Herald and at SunHerald.com that spotlights South Mississippi people whose life or work is an inspiration to others.