Now retired, Lea Joy became part of the Springfield Police Department in 1983. She had three children and had been a social worker, but she felt too powerless in that role. She wanted to make things better.
Joy's time on the force was ripe with controversy as she made her way through the ranks. Part of that had to do with being a woman, and part of it had to do with her race. She was the first black female officer to serve on the force.
In the interview above, Joy talks about being called an "African (expletive)" and having colleagues question if she left chicken grease on a patrol car steering wheel. "Unequivocally the system is set up to be racist," Joy said. "There are a lot of good white and black officers though that work very hard to do the right thing. But the system I would say without a doubt is set up to be racist."
Joy credits certain officers for backing her up and standing up to the racist attitudes of some of their peers.
While being female may have added another layer of discrimination, she says she created a reputation for doing the right thing regardless of her identity. "I made sure that we were there to serve and protect," she said. As you will hear in the conversation above, transparency in law enforcement is something she finds critically important.
Joy was part of a 2008 race-discrimination trial, as covered by Dusty Rhodes, now with NPR Illinois and previously with the Illinois Times. You can read more about it, here.