For Sgt. Cristy Hamblin, it pretty much started with a pair of fictional TV cops.
“When I was little it was ‘Starsky and Hutch,’ and I wanted to do that,” she said. “A guy I dated in high school and I decided we were going to be ‘The Bob and Cristy Show.' He is now a police officer in Olatha, Kansas, so we really are ‘The Bob and Cristy Show’ — just in different jurisdictions.”
This August marks Hamblin’s 30th year as a police officer, “and all of those years have been here with the Cedar Rapids Police Department.”
A Mount Mercy University graduate with a degree in criminal justice, she served in various capacities with the department, before taking on her current role as public information officer (PIO).
“Right after the 2008 flood, I was in charge of crime prevention and I had the choice between being commander of crime prevention or going full time as PIO,” she said. “I’d done crime prevention for about 10 years and really enjoyed it, but this was something new and different for me.”
Her duties in the position are broad. Some involve serving on committees such as the Cedar Rapids Community-Oriented Policing and Problem Solving. But other tasks are emotionally more challenging.
“I’ve had to leave death messages that were very horrific,” she noted.
“There have been many worst days as I think back, but probably the worst top three include when Officer Brent Sunner was killed (in 1984) and, more recently, when Officer (Tim) Davis was hurt (in 2009). I had to put on a happy face and reassure the public that he was going to be OK.”
The third incident involved the highly publicized 2005 murder of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage.
“I was on the phone with Johnson County waiting for confirmation that they’d found Jetseta’s body,” she recalled, “and at the same time my cellphone rang and it was my sister telling me that my grandmother, who’d been in a coma, had died.”
But there have been good moments, too.
“I met my husband here in the department,” she smiled. “We’ve been married 28 years.”
She has seen many changes in the department since her early days.
“When I came to the department 30 years ago, there were 150 officers, 5 of those were women and only 1 African-American officer.
“When we are full strength here today, we have 203 officers,” she said. “Out of that number, 31 are women, and now we have 4 African-American officers, 2 Asian officers and 1 Hispanic officer.”
Hamblin offers one solid piece of advice for women who are thinking of entering law enforcement: “I would say it is a great job, but you have to be very thick skinned. You will have to deal with rumors that aren’t true, and the names the public will call you.
"The stereotyping and the disrespect that can come.”
All things taken into consideration, Hamblin said she’d do it all again, despite her one major concern.
“The thing that bothers me most is the attitude today of, ‘It’s everybody else’s problem. It’s the police’s problem that the kids are so bad, it’s the school’s fault that our kids are failing.’
“I think the one key part that we are missing today is, when do we hold the parents responsible?”