Sgt. Anais Paez never thought she would enter the police force when she was a young girl. Now she trains officers – one of seven female members of the Key Biscayne Police force.
“In my personal experience, I don’t consider myself a trailblazer,” Paez said. “Many remarkable women before me have truly paved the way for my generation in law enforcement.”
A 2003 graduate of Hialeah High School, Paez is of Cuban American descent. Her introduction to policing came from her high school peer group. “I had friends who started becoming police officers and I started looking into it,” she said.
Paez is no desk jockey, starting her shift patrolling the beach on her ATV. It’s a job that fits her personality, she said.
It combines her strong sense of purpose in serving and protecting the community while maintaining her physical fitness regimen. Paez said “My ability to make quick, calm decisions under pressure and work effectively in teams” also made policing a natural fit for her.
But by no means is it an easy job – one where long shifts in the heat and cold can give way to life-and-death decisions in a second.
“I’ve encountered numerous heartbreaking and challenging situations during my career, and while I won’t delve into the full details, I can provide a brief list of my top three: an infant SID’s case, a shooting victim, and a suicide crime scene,” Paez said.
Six years ago, she was promoted to sergeant.
“I didn’t think I’d become a sergeant or anything above. But as I started doing the job, I kind of outgrew that part of just being on patrol and took an exam and did well and performed well.” she said.
But as before, she wound up surprising herself.
Part of the reason may be that Key Biscayne exceeds the national average when it comes to employing women in law enforcement. Nationally, women make up only 12% of sworn officers and 3% of police leadership.
Chief Frank Sousa says the Paez has been leading by example. “She understands the mission of the agency and the initiative to engage the community,” he said.
For Paez, the notion of paying it back for the community and her fellow officers is a recurring theme on and off the job.
“I had really good supervisors who, who mentored me, took me under their wing,” she said. But the lessons aren’t only about police work. “There’s things that’s not taught, it’s just who you are.”
“We pretty much got each other.” said Paez, “We spend a lot of hours together. We kind of know when somebody’s a little off or not feeling well, and we chime in and make sure we’re all okay, and take care of each other in that way.”
Her dedication to her fellow officers doesn’t end when the workday is finished. Chosen by her colleagues, she’s a powerful presence at the bargaining table, where she is a union representative in labor talks with top Village officials.
The Village and its unionized workers have been negotiating new contracts, where one goal has been trying to make up for a surge in the cost of living.
“It’s a pretty interesting role,” she explained. “We pretty much go and negotiate on behalf of our members to try to get the best compensation and benefits for what we do, and kind of give a little background as to why we should be receiving those benefits.”
She describes the Key Biscayne Police Department as a family where officers can lean on each other. She wants the public to know that they are human like anyone else.
“Citizens or civilians tend to have the idea that we kind of have these superhero powers, and we do not. We can’t. We don’t have psychic powers to know there’s going to be a crime committed on this street,” Paez said.
There is an ongoing national effort to increase the number of women in policing. The 30×30 initiative aims to raise the representation of women in police recruit classes to 30 percent by 2030 and ensure they have the support to succeed. Sousa said the KPPD is not a formal member of the program, but supports its goals.
Paez says she’s hoping to get more opportunities to encourage female cops.
“Outside of my role as a field training officer, where I’ve trained new female officers and helped friends interested in this career, I haven’t had many opportunities to mentor or guide young women into the profession,” she said.
“My KBPD colleagues have made it effortless to be a female in this profession. My male counterparts have consistently shown respect, care, and trust in my abilities and leadership.”
ANASTASIA IVANOVA is a junior at the School for Advanced Studies and is part of the Key Biscayne Independent's student journalism program. She earlier attended MAST Academy and was a staff writer for the school newspaper, The Beacon, and loves traveling, appreciating art, consuming and producing writing, and developing a greater understanding of the world.