When London Police Officer Ashley Taylor graduated high school and went to college, she believed a career in corrections was in her future. After all, her father, grandfather and grandmother all made careers in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
While earning her undergraduate degree in human services and criminal justice at the University of the Cumberlands (UC), Taylor had to do a ride along with the Williamsburg Police Department as a course requirement. The ride along caused Taylor to make a slight course deviation in her career path.
“I went to (college) thinking I wanted to go into corrections, like my father and other members of my family,” she said. “But after my first ride along, I knew (policing) is what I wanted to do. After I got on the road, I realized being face-to-face with your community is how you can make a major difference, and I realized that was the road I wanted to go down. The money is not as good, but I feel the connection with the people outweighs other factors.”
Taylor hasn’t regretted her decision. After graduating from UC, Taylor became a Williamsburg police officer and served there for two years. She left Williamsburg to return to her hometown of London where she has been an officer for nearly three years.
Throughout her career, Taylor’s calling has been merely to get to know her community. It is not uncommon for Taylor to pull her cruiser over, get out and interact with children.
“I love getting to communicate with the community and getting to know families,” Taylor said. “If I have to go into a home where there are kids, usually they gravitate toward me. I don’t know if it’s the whole female, nurturing thing, but they’re drawn to me. I can comfort them usually, so they’re not as scared as they would be. That way, we can deal with whatever we have to deal with. The next time I see them, they’re excited to see me. They’re not scared and thinking, ‘Oh, she’s here to take my mom.’ They see me as me, and they’re excited.”
Often, a child’s interaction with police is negative when they encounter officers during domestic situations. But one of Taylor’s goals is to show the community as a whole that police are people, too.
“I feel we all need to be a part of our community because many times, people look at police officers and think they’re like a robot who has no feelings or personality,” she explained. “It’s important that they see us as people. (Policing) is my job. I hate some of the things I have to do, but if we don’t do it, it would be chaos.”
In the wake of events like the riots in Ferguson, Mo., Taylor said officers, in general, have been ridiculed across the board, but her goal is to reverse that trend via community-oriented policing.
“Before all of that, I think the majority of people respected police officers and held them in a good light,” Taylor said. “After (Ferguson), the feeling has been negative. We need to step up and change the way police officers are looked at. That is why we go in and talk with kids, or when we deal with people, we deal with them as respectfully as we can.”
Aside from patrol duties, Taylor helps teach Rape Aggression Defense training to high-school students.
“It’s important for juniors and seniors in high school or young females, who might be getting ready to go into college, to learn how to defend themselves or to be cautious in their surroundings,” Taylor said. “I like to do this class because it brings (safety) to the girls’ attention.”
Another way Taylor intermingles with the community is by returning to her first love – softball.
A decade ago, Taylor was a star player for North Laurel High School. Present day, she serves as an assistant coach at her alma mater.
“It’s my stress relief because I love softball,” she explained. “It’s great for me to get to coach at the school where I played, and I have a lot of pride for North Laurel. It’s also important that girls see a strong female role model and someone who has done something with her life. I’ve put myself through school (bachelor’s and master’s degree), and now I have my career. It’s important for them to see someone who has gone through those steps and hopefully it inspires them to go forward. Every day I go to practice, for two and a half hours, I’m not a police officer, I’m a coach. I get to hang out with them and help them improve their skills.”
That is what community-oriented policing is all about, she added.
“We work 12-hour shifts, so it’s easy for an officer to stay in their car unless they’re out on a call,” she said. “I think it is important for us to get out and interact.”
During her first two years in the profession, Taylor didn’t have to concern herself with policing those she knew growing up. But since joining the London Police Department, she has come across former classmates and others she knew. That has been different, but the job remains the same, she said.
“A couple of months ago, I worked a collision involving a mom of a girl I played softball with,” Taylor said. “The mom recognized me right off, but I was in cop mode working a major collision. After it was over, I was like, ‘Wait a minute. That was someone I knew when I was a kid.’”
After a moment of reflection, Taylor said she is amazed at the life path some people take.
“The more serious thing is dealing with drugs,” she said. “It’s crazy how everyone grows up in the same environment, but in 10 years, it is incredible to see how everyone changes.”
Just shy of five years into her career, Taylor has lofty goals and knows that with hard work, they are attainable.
“I don’t want to be a patrol officer forever; I want stripes,” she said. “As soon as I can go up the chain, I want to do that. I have five years’ experience, and the next step would be a sergeant. When the opportunity comes, I have to be ready.”
As for the possibility of one day having the title of chief in front of her name, she good-humoredly responded, “Maybe.”
But in the meantime, Taylor is content on serving her hometown agency by holding herself to the standard befitting a police officer.
“Certain jobs are held to a higher standard, like police officers, doctors, nurses and teachers,” she explained. “You know if you go into this job, you have to be honorable. I hold myself to a higher standard. I’m not going to write someone a ticket for a seatbelt if I’m not wearing mine. I won’t do it.”