As the country celebrates Women’s History Month, the Clayton Police Department is making some history of its own – as the force is now almost 50 percent female.
The department added its fifth female officer to the 11-person force in December.
The Clayton PD was established in 1972 with a chief and two officers. While there has been an occasional female on the force over the years, things started changing when Elise Warren took the helm in 2018. She became Clayton’s first female chief after 28 years with the Contra Costa County Sherriff’s office.
At that time, Ashley Wright was the only female officer. Over the past two years, Warren has added both male and female officers. Women patrolling Clayton’s streets now also include Torrey Jarvis, Jamie Johnston and Kelsey Wiggins.
Wright, a mom of four, grew up in Benicia and enjoys the similar small town feel of Clayton. She’s been with the department for 3½ years and is happy to see the women’s locker room become increasingly cramped compared to the days when she was the only one using it.
“My favorite part of the job is helping people, coming up with solutions to problems in the community,” says Wright, whose husband is also in law enforcement and is a canine handler.
With two years in the department, Jarvis arrived about the same time as Warren. She previously spent time at another department and served five years in the U.S. Navy as an aviator structural mechanic, traveling to many countries during her two tours.
She is one class away from earning a master’s degree in law enforcement leadership from the University of San Diego. The southern California native spent her undergraduate years in New York and moved to the Bay Area about five years ago.
Her stepfather was a police officer in various cities in the Bay Area for more than 30 years. “My stepfather is truly my inspiration for getting into this profession and has given me guidance and encouragement throughout my time as a police officer,” Jarvis says. “When I think of what a police officer is, I think of him: genuine, honest and fair.”
Johnston was hired nine months ago, coming to Clayton from a campus police position with a college district. She also served in U.S. Marine Corp. Although she doesn’t live in Clayton, her great, great, great grandfather, Charles Trette, was a blacksmith in Clayton more than 100 years ago. Johnston received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and lives in the Bay Area with her husband and 13-year-old son.
“I love that we have a female chief,” Johnston says. “It’s empowering to be led by a woman who has walked in our shoes and worked her way to the top.”
Wiggins is the newest female on the force. After graduation from the Contra Costa County Police Academy in May 2019, she worked for a short time in Concord. Originally from Roseville, she now lives in Walnut Creek with her wife of three years.
“I love working for a department that is such a big part of the community. Members of the community wave to me every day while on patrol,” Wiggins says.
Warren agrees. “Clayton is very supportive of the police. With a small town and a small police force, I’m able to look at candidates as a whole person, their values and their background. They are not just a number as one of hundreds of applicants.”
Not only is Clayton paving the way for more women in law enforcement, but the city is also offering residents a more diverse and dedicated group of officers who are happy to be part of the community.