First female Hastings police officer retiring

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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Kathy Eley is the first female police officer for the Hastings Police Department.

After 40 years of service, she will be retiring Friday.

She said being the first female officer was different and uncomfortable for her at times. For example, on her first day at work two officers quit and went to other departments.

Although it wasn't easy, she said it was very rewarding.

"The next female to be hired was a year and a half after me, so it just took a long time," Eley said. "Sometimes they'd be kind of slow to back me up and didn't tell me things that might of been important."

Despite the challenges, she's proud she never gave up.

"I was kind of stubborn and I thought I am going to leave when I am ready you are not going to push me out," Eley said. "There were times I was scared to death."

Her bravery helped pave the way for other women, including the first female captain at the police station.

"She was a trailblazer for women in law enforcement within the Hastings Police Department," Captain Raelee Van Winkle with HPD said. "She had to endure a lot being the first female 40 years ago when it was not acceptable to be a female in this profession."

The captain adds Kathy is a huge asset to the police department.

"[She] helped a lot of people, specifically children that's kind of been her area that she's been working," Van Winkle said. "She's phenomenal and she's done a tremendous job." "She's tough when she needs to be tough, but she compassionate as well," she added.

Now that Kathy will be retiring Friday, she has some advice for other women.

"Keep pushing, you'll get through it and it makes you tougher," Eley said. "Police work is a wonderful and rewarding career." "I don't regret it, even the hard times," she added.

There are currently four sworn female officers at the Hastings police station, in Kearney there are three and in Grand Island there are eight.