LINGLE – “We don’t call you chief of police?” a second grade student asked the woman standing at the head of the class.
“You don’t call me that. That would be weird,” she replied.
“Do the other police call you chief?”
“No, they just call me Endra, too.”
Endra Andrews has been the town of Lingle’s sole officer for nearly all of her 10 years on the job. She is also the chief, although not by default. The town code only specifies “an officer” be hired, not that this officer be the chief.
It was the first day of school on Aug. 20, and Andrews wandered the hallways of the Lingle-Ft. Laramie Schools campus, getting stopped every couple hundred feet.
“I’m excited for you,” a teacher told her.
“You look good, you really do,” another gushed.
“I keep having to buy clothes,” Andrews said. “I keep getting bigger and bigger.”
Andrews, 49, is four months pregnant.
“They call it a geriatric pregnancy,” she said in her town hall office. “It’s very harsh.”
Andrews might have maintained her normal routine after becoming pregnant if a fellow officer had not intervened.
In early summer, she asked a firearms instructor if she could wear a shoulder holster to the firing range because her belt had trouble fitting. He conferred with a colleague in Torrington who told her, no, she could not go, period.
“You just can’t be out on the range. You can’t be around the lead. There’s hydroshock issues to the baby,” she recalled him saying. “How would I know this? Why would I even know this?”
Andrews acquired a note from her doctor and presented it to the mayor and town council.
She told them simply: “I’m sitting at my desk. If you need anything, you know where to find me.”
Lingle’s mayor, George Siglin, took no issue with his only officer putting down her tools - her sidearm and handcuffs.
“It’s common sense is what it is. It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “Take care of your health. She’s now responsible for two people: herself and the baby.”
The right thing
“That’s an unusual situation,” Jack Rinchich, the president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, said.
Of all of the law enforcement associations and data repositories - from the International Association of Chiefs of Police to the National Association of Police Organizations, and even the Federal Bureau of Investigation - none track the number of departments with pregnancy policies, much less the instances where a sole female officer is pregnant.
A pregnancy policy differs from a maternity policy. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act generally provides for unpaid maternity leave up to 12 weeks surrounding the date of childbirth. A pregnancy policy dictates what to do with an officer during the nine months before the due date.
“Pregnancy policy is where most police departments big and small get into problems,” said Betsy Smith, a former police officer and current law enforcement trainer. “They just don’t know what to do with a pregnant cop.”
Lingle did not have an explicit policy in place for Andrews’ situation. Of Wyoming’s large cities, Gillette does not. Cheyenne doesn’t either, but a spokesperson said the department provides light duty for pregnant officers, adding that “it happens all the time.”
Laramie’s light duty policy does not explicitly mention pregnancy, stating that an officer can, due to medical reasons, “be considered” for a temporary light duty assignment, but is “not to be an expected or mandated practice.”
Torrington police officers are “eligible” for light duty assignments when pregnant.
“They’re really doing the right thing,” Smith said of the town of Lingle. “They should be commended for what they’re doing.”
She estimated that only one quarter of police departments nationwide have pregnancy policies - a number corroborated in a 2014 survey by two American researchers.
There are numerous examples of law enforcement agencies making life difficult for pregnant officers.
In 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against an Illinois police department, alleging that the agency refused to give a pregnant officer a light duty assignment while also making it impossible for her to continue patrol work.
A decade earlier, a jury in New York awarded six officers thousands of dollars in compensation after their departments prevented them from taking light duty while pregnant.
“There are a million things that even the smallest police agency can have that officer do,” Smith said. “Whether it’s taking death reports, to working in dispatch, to reorganizing the evidence room, there’s all kinds of things. There’s always something to do in a police department. There’s never a time where there’s not valid work to be done.”
In July, the U.S. Department of Justice released the “Women in Policing” report. Over two days, a group of nearly 100 people - mostly women - attended a summit to strategize about how to increase the percentage of female officers. Currently, only 13 percent of officers nationwide are female.
Although the report alluded to “balancing professional and personal responsibilities,” health issues that “disproportionately or exclusively impact women,” and parental leave, nowhere did the attendees discuss pregnancy policies.
“You should have seen the list before we cut it down,” Catherine Sanz of the Women in Federal Law Enforcement Foundation, Inc., said. “I see post-pregnancy issues impacting women more because children limit their activities. Children mean you don’t hang out with the guys, you go home.”
Small town policing
Before her pregnancy, Andrews might have performed traffic stops or responded to calls that potentially required weapons. Now, her day can consist of crossing guard duty at the school, taking reports from residents or completing online training.
“Ambush awareness. School resource officers. Opioid crisis protection for first responders,” she said as she flipped through a pile of course certificates on her desk. “Cultural awareness and diversity. Emotional and psychological disorders. Recognition of child abuse and neglect.”
She also has two in-person trainings coming up in September, one on domestic violence and one about female officers.
At the August town council meeting, Andrews delivered a stern warning during her regular report.
“Just a little reminder: I may look like this,” she said, gesturing to her pregnant stomach, “and I may be spending a lot of time in my office. However, I still have authority to warn, cite, and arrest as needed.”
She had heard from a fellow law enforcement officer that a resident had questioned her authority, given her transition to civilian clothes and light duty.
Sitting in her office, she wore a black polo shirt with a pink police badge emblazoned in the corner. It had the words “Endra” and “Lingle PD Wyoming” around the borders, with a stork in the middle. A friend who owns an apparel store in Colorado sent it to her the day before.
In her decade on the job, Andrews steadily built relationships in the town of 468 people. Residents began calling her personally for emergencies, appearing on her doorstep, or sending her Facebook messages. She had to emphasize to them the importance of contacting police dispatch first.
“I had to explain to a lot of people that I’m not your personal cop,” she said. “One of the good things about me being in the office is that I can help people. People now know where to find me. So people come in with things that, ‘I don’t want anything done, but this is what’s going on.’ And I hear that quite a bit.”
Andrews gave up her weapon, pointing to the harm that lead exposure can do to a fetus. But along with that, she gave up her police patrol vehicle.
“If I am driving the car around people expect me to do police-like things - and right now, I can’t be doing that,” she said. “I can’t be doing traffic stops. It’s an officer safety issue.”
Only Andrews can enforce town code - things like dogs-at-large, or other town ordinances. There were times in the past where she was off the job for various reasons, like an injury or death in the family. When she needed foot surgery, she said she issued citations for loose dogs and a deputy delivered them.
The Goshen County Sheriff’s Office can respond to calls for service in Lingle. Sheriff Kory Fleenor said he has seen no uptick in calls since Andrews’ light duty reassignment.
“I’ve worked here 20 years and I can’t think of a time where we did have somebody that was pregnant,” he said, adding that there was no pregnancy policy in place for his office.
According to Rinchich, the fact that the GCSO is willing to help out in Lingle is indicative of a strong working relationship between the two departments.
“It’s also impressive that the sheriff’s department would agree to cover that area until such time as she delivers the baby and gets back into full duty status,” Rinchich said. “That sounds to me like they have a good working relationship with the local agency.”
Andrews said Lingle is pretty safe. She makes one arrest per year - if that.
“I don’t think things need to be dramatic and embarrassing. I don’t think it needs to be a power trip,” she said. “I think we can all just get along by talking to each other generally.”
She has asked people to move their car a few feet on the street. She has helped with heating and plumbing issues. The silver lining is that it is a privilege how people trust her with their problems, however minor.
For a small-town cop, that isn’t unusual.
“Yes, being seen, listening to people, hearing their complaints. Sometimes there’s some just quality of life issue that people want to talk or vent,” Bruce Von Goerres, the police chief in Ellendale, Del., said. The Marshall Project profiled Von Goerres in 2018 as the sole officer in his city’s department.
“Neighbor’s yard is a little out of whack or something. I’ll speak to them.”
At the council meeting on Aug. 21, Andrews casually mentioned that she could “easily sneak around town” during lunchtime at the high school in her personal vehicle, monitoring stop sign compliance.
“When you say you’re ‘sneaking around,’ what are you doing?” asked a council member.
“I’m observing them,” Andrews responded.
“In your personal vehicle?”
“We have homeowners who complain that they’re going too fast up the streets and they’re not stopping at stop signs,” Andrews elaborated. If the kids spy her police car parked at a stop sign, they will always comply.
Von Goerres said that his personal preference was to be in a marked car in uniform. The car itself deters lawbreaking.
“Being in your personal vehicle, I know my personal car insurance would not cover that,” he said.
The day after the council meeting, Andrews sat in her blue Honda Accord one block south of the school. She wore her badge around her neck, still in civilian clothes.
“There might be some liability,” she said. “But I’m not doing anything that I’m not doing even when I’m normally off-duty.”
She said she drives around at night sometimes just to observe. She approaches people she knows and refrains from situations that could require backup.
“It’s not like I’m down in Denver where I don’t know who I’m going to deal with or what’s going to happen,” she said. “I know these people. It’s not a transient community.”
If she saw a stop sign violation or a speeder, she insisted that handling it in a small town - even while pregnant - is different, largely because of the relationships she has built up over 10 years.
“These guys have all known me since preschool,” she said, referencing the students. “Me telling them to knock their stuff off is not a big deal.”
Someone passed by in a truck she recognized from the council meeting the night before.
“One of the good things about being in a small town is to know most everybody and the vehicles they drive,” she said. “And instead of taking law enforcement action over every little thing that happens, most of the time a phone call or a text message takes care of it.”
She likened Lingle, less than half a square mile in size, to the fictional town of Mayberry.
“Most people are super compliant because most people are really good people.”
She chatted with the secretary in the front office. “If you guys need anything," she said, tell the principal that “I can still deal with 90 percent of what takes place in here.”
Unless he thinks it will be violent. Until the baby arrives, the chief said, she has no place to keep her tools.