Massachusetts Association of Women in Law Enforcement Recognizes Over 40 Women for Exceptional Accomplishments During Spirit of MAWLE Awards

CANTON — The Executive Board of the Massachusetts Association of Women in Law Enforcement (MAWLE) is pleased to recognize this year’s Spirit of MAWLE Award honorees and their exceptional accomplishments and contributions.

The 2023 Spirit of MAWLE Awards was held on Thursday, June 22 at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton. Six women were recognized in award categories, and an additional 36 women received Special Recognition certificates. 

“The Spirit of MAWLE Awards were first held in 2012 in memory of Massachusetts State Police Trooper Ellen Engelhardt, who passed away in 2011. Since then, we have continued to celebrate significant achievements by women in law enforcement and criminal justice professions, and are inspired by how the number of nominations has grown each year,” said MAWLE President Marie Cleary. “We were delighted to welcome so many award recipients, police chiefs, colleagues, family members and friends as we recognized this year’s award recipients and their exceptional contributions. I would also like to acknowledge the members of the Awards Selection Committee, who help to make this event successful each year.”

The Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office Color Guard and Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums opened the program, and Cambridge Police Deputy Superintendent Pauline Wells sang the National Anthem. President Cleary provided opening remarks. 

Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper was the keynote speaker. She spoke about the history of women in policing, the difficult experiences and encounters some of the first women officers had, and the pathways they created for women in policing. Chief Kasper also discussed her own career and journey, and how critical education and support networks like MAWLE are for women in law enforcement. She concluded by encouraging those in attendance to support each other.

“The history of women police officers in the United States is relatively short, but it’s filled with determination and strength. That history is still being written as we all continue to serve in this field, grow in number and break barriers,” Chief Kasper said. “To advance the path forward for women officers, I encourage you all to continue to find and support these spaces throughout your career, bring others with you and introduce them to these opportunities. Leadership and mentorship is possible for any rank, and isn’t about stripes on your sleeves or bars on your shoulder.”

The Lieutenant June T. Murphy Scholarship was then presented to Victoria Pevzner. Pevzner is a graduate of Monument Mountain Regional High School and will be attending Berkshire Community College in the fall where she plans to pursue a criminal justice degree. 

The award recipients include: 

Leadership: Sgt. Melanie Rooney, Newton Police Department

This award recognizes a woman who distinguishes herself through superior accomplishments or continuing long-term involvement, and using leadership skills that make a significant contribution within the agency or to the law enforcement mission.

Sgt. Rooney was recognized for distinguishing herself from others in the policing profession with her ability to create innovative ideas, carry out strategic initiatives, lead others by example and seek to achieve excellence. 

Sgt. Rooney created the Newton Police Department Problem-Oriented Policing Unit, which is responsible for identifying public safety problems, analyzing incidents and responding appropriately, using all available resources with the objective of minimizing recurring public safety matters. 

Sgt. Rooney also attended training with the Norfolk County Crisis Intervention Team & Technical Assistance Center, helping to progress the Newton Police Department’s crisis intervention response. She has joined the Newton Community Crisis Intervention Team. She also partnered with the department’s Jail Diversion Clinician, co-responding to over 50 calls and 200 follow-up service calls between June and December 2022.

Sgt. Rooney was recognized for her ability to successfully incorporate her leadership qualities and training into day-to-day operations. She has excelled in addressing mental health and substance use disorder matters and performs her duties with dignity, respect and empathy. She is described as being the personification of excellence in leadership amongst her peers and the law enforcement community. 

Excellence in Performance: Officer Heather Manning, Hudson Police Department

This award recognizes a woman in law enforcement who distinguishes herself through superior attention to duty or outstanding investigative effort, which leads to the identification, location or arrest of a major criminal or criminal activity.

Officer Manning was recognized for consistently going beyond what is expected of her and demonstrating her commitment to her profession, including furthering her training. She has served as a detective, including a sexual assault and narcotics investigator, a RAD and children’s self-defense instructor, a dispatcher, a field training officer and a background investigator. She regularly participates in department events such as Coffee With a Cop and the Youth Police Academy. 

Officer Manning was also recognized for her response to a report of an assault of two victims, who were also threatened by the suspect with a firearm. She assessed the situation and helped to create and implement a response plan, and as a result of this work, the suspect was taken into custody and a firearm was recovered. Officer Manning continued the investigation to uncover further evidence, and was recognized for her thorough work and commitment to the investigation.

Mentoring: Gayane Faniants, Fitness Director and Wellness Coordinator, Boston Police Department

This award honors a woman who distinguishes herself with her support and assistance to other women in law enforcement, development of programs or policies favorable to women, and/or serving on committees or organizations that review women’s issues.

Faniants has worked for the Boston Police Department for 23 years since being hired to manage the fitness center at the new headquarters and assist employees with their health and wellness goals. She has helped train potential recruits for the state’s Physical Abilities Test (PAT) and the Boston Police Academy’s physical training readiness program. She provides instruction and guidance on the best methods to overcome the PAT challenges female candidates historically face, and helps candidates understand how to increase overall body strength and meet other wellness goals. 

The program has continued to grow, and Faniants now works with recruits on the PAT and MPTC testing requirements. She recently completed assessments and offered services to close to 200 candidates, many of whom entered the recent Boston Police Academy class. Numerous current members of the department also participate in the program. 

Faniants is recognized for her decades of dedication to mentoring prospective officers, cadets and current members of the department. She has implemented programs to overcome not only the overall health and wellness of officer candidates and current members, but also specifically tackled issues that primarily affected female candidates.

Community Service: Officer Jamila Gales, Boston Police Department

This award recognizes a woman who distinguishes herself through superior accomplishments by developing, designing, implementing and participating in programs involving communities and law enforcement, which include neighborhoods, schools, community meetings and businesses.

Officer Gales is assigned to the Boston Police Bureau of Community Engagement and has committed the last 13 years of her career to the community. Early in her career, she joined the Community Service Office in Dorchester’s District C11. She worked with youths and fostered relationships with them, showing them they could achieve anything and helping them on their journeys.

Officer Gales also took initiative in spearheading the GROW program (Girls Reflecting Our World). The program started with eight girls from a local community center and has continuously grown to what it is today with 37 girls enrolled in a year-round program, with a long waitlist. The girls participate in activities like trauma-informed yoga, swimming, bystander involvement training, athletics and an inner wellness series, and also learn academic and financial readiness, basic mechanics and public speaking. The partnerships and relationships built through the program have provided invaluable life lessons to the participating young women. 

Officer Gales is described as displaying the strength, fortitude and stamina necessary in a leader to make a significant impact on the lives of young people, and creates an environment for everyone around her to feel like nothing is impossible. 

Courage: Officer Mary Kate Legacy, Boston Police Department

This award recognizes a woman who has distinguished herself by an act of bravery or heroism, at risk of their own personal safety or in the face of great danger, above and beyond the call of duty.

Officer Legacy, who works in Roxbury and Dorchester, responded last year to a ShotSpotter activation while assigned to a one-person car. She responded to the area and observed a vehicle driving very close to her cruiser. Shortly after, she saw an individual matching the description of the reportedly armed person running though a yard. While making these observations, Officer Legacy kept Operations and her fellow officers apprised with clear radio broadcasts. The suspect then entered the vehicle Officer Legacy had seen before and fled. She began to pursue the vehicle and kept others updated on the their direction of travel, allowing other units to respond and stop the vehicle. The suspect was arrested and a firearm was safety recovered. 

Officer Legacy was recognized for her initiative, immediate response and bravery. Despite being relatively new to the job and working alone that night, Officer Legacy demonstrated her commitment to protecting the community. 

Civilian Achievement: Doreen Gallagher, Domestic Violence Advocate, Brookline Police Department

This award recognizes a civilian within the law enforcement field who distinguishes herself through outstanding achievements and who has gone above and beyond to support, promote and enhance the criminal justice profession.

Gallagher was recognized for her tireless work assisting victims, survivors and their families. During and since the COVID-19 pandemic, she has helped even more people seeking guidance, exasperated by the added factors of isolation. She has assisted those reaching out and needing resources, also helping victims obtain restraining orders and harassment prevention orders via Zoom hearings.

She is described as thorough and empathic. She brings years of experience to her role, and is not only a great resource herself, but is aware of alternative resources and programs and works to connect survivors to them. She also works with many families where mental health issues are combined with a domestic violence aspect. She works to navigate the system and goes over options with families, supporting them in ways that always puts safety at the forefront. 

The Special Recognition recipients can be found at: