Central Ohio woman recounts breaking down racial, gender barriers within Columbus police

Black History Month

The odds seemed insurmountable.

A young, recently divorced African American mother of two young children, joining the Columbus division in the 1970s. A period in law enforcement when women, of all races, were a minority.

Sandy Mack beat the odds. Not only that, but her son followed in her footsteps.

NBC 4’s Tom Sussi sat down with the family.

“They didn’t want us,” said Sandy Mack. “They didn’t want some little woman like me coming to the police department doing a big burly man’s job.”

That’s exactly what Sandy Mack did in April of 1975.

Mack said about 50 officers graduated that year from the Columbus Division of Police Academy. Ten of them said Mack were females including seven African Americans.

“At the time I signed up for the police department, the city of Columbus was under a federal court order to hire more minorities which included African Americans and females,” she said.

Mack, now 75 years old, said the city at the time did little to prepare for the transition.

“The substations. There were no facilities (restrooms) there for females. if I wanted to use the restroom, there may be some male come in and go to the stall right next to me. this was a guy’s territory.”

Mack’s son, Sean Mack, added, “That story she just told you? I knew nothing about.”

Sean Mack joined CPD in 1992, two years before Sandy Mack retired.

He remembers his mother’s struggles as a young minority police officer, raising two children alone.

“She actually had told other officers who were giving her a hard time, and it certainly was not everyone there but there was a few, that you do whatever you need to do to me, I’m not going anywhere,” recalled Sean Mack. “I have two kids and a mortgage.”

When Sean told his mother he wanted to follow in her footsteps and be a police officer, Sandy Mack had concerns. “How he was going to be treated by other officers at that time because he was a minority,” she said. “That was one of biggest concerns.”

Race relations and gender equality said Sean Mack has improved leaps and bounds since his mother joined the department in 1975. What remains a battle he says is recruiting minorities and women.

“If we’re not where we need to be I don’t think it’s because of a lack of effort,” he said. “You have to go into the communities, go on campuses and try to recruit quality people. No matter what the race, and sell them on this job. And not only are you up against the inherent dangers of the job, you’re also up against public perception and that’s a tough sell.”

Like his mom, Sean Mack is a detective. In honor of Sandy Mack – he has the same badge number. Badge 1033.

“I  just feel blessed beyond measure,” said Sandy Mack.

These days, Sandy Mack is fighting a new battle, cancer.

And she’s fighting it, in the same manner she fought to break down racial and genders barriers and become a police officer –  with everything she has.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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