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Women's History Month: Katherine Lester Sworn In As First-Ever Female Sacramento Police Chief

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Katherine Lester was sworn in Thursday as the first woman to ever hold the position of Sacramento police chief.

When she first joined the force, she was one of only a few female officers in the department. Her promotion is a major step forward for the department, but female representation is still low within the police force.

Lester has been a part of the Sacramento Police Department for 28 years. Now, she's the top cop, but getting there wasn't an easy path.

"I was really young and a little misguided," she said.

At 18 years old, Lester joined the Army. She got in trouble often, earning her a meeting with her platoon sergeant who asked her a question.

"I remember him very clearly asking me who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do," Lester said. "That for me was a turning point in my career."

Lester returned home to her native Sacramento with a plan. She went to college, found a job as a police dispatcher and eventually joined the city's police force as one of the only female officers.

"There's a whole generation of women behind me that really cleared a path," Lester said.

The Sacramento Police Department was formed in 1862, and 87 years later, the first female officer was hired. It wasn't for another 72 years that Lester was appointed as the first female police chief – but what about now?

"Where we are now is not exactly where we want to be in law enforcement," she said.

The department is 17% women — a number Chief Lester is dedicated to increasing.

"There's an initiative called the 30-by-30 initiative. The idea is to get to 30% women by 2030," she said. "I think having women and diverse candidates in leadership roles, that only helps."

Chief Lester told CBS13 the department is working on new hiring initiatives to diversify the department with the goal of reflecting the makeup of its community.

"I love Sacramento because it's such a diverse community," Lester said. "When you are able to make people's lives better and make a change, you have the opportunity to create a positive impact."

The hope is that, in the future, females officers will lead the way.

"I would tell women in any profession: 'Don't be afraid of moving up. If you sell yourself short and miss those opportunities, you won't be able to be at the table, you won't be able to be a leader,' " Lester said. "I would put a lot of women in this department up against any guy."

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