Springfield hires first-ever African-American female officer

Chelsea Leavell (Photo: WKRN)

SPRINGFIELD, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Robertson County city has hired its first-ever African-American female police officer.

Chelsea Leavell joined the department in July 2015 and started patrolling full-time this past spring.

A native of Springfield, Officer Leavell told News 2 she’s used to being the first.

Unbeknownst to many of her fellow players, she was the first female to play junior pro football in Springfield. She was just seven years old.

Leavell went on to become a star athlete at John Paul II High School, playing basketball and competing in track.

Her performance in track earned a scholarship to Milligan College where she qualified nationally for track and field.

As a member of the Buffaloes track team, she was a three-time NAIA Indoor National Championships attendee and twice appeared in the NAIA Outdoor National Championships competing in the weight throw, discus, and shot put, according to Milligan College.

Her best finish came in the shot put as a senior where she placed 12th overall. Altogether, she put together three top-15 finishes in national competition.

But now she is focused on protecting her hometown and the people she grew up knowing her and her family.

“It is something I have always wanted to do,” Officer Leavell said. “Growing up I wanted to get into public service work.”

Adjusting to policing her hometown streets has had its challenges, but nothing that makes her question her decision.

“It actually feels amazing,” she said. “I mean, it is a little different–a little difficult at times, but I have been here all my life. I definitely do enjoy policing and serving my community.”

Springfield Police Chief David Thompson said hiring Leavell was a smart move for the department because of the community involvement and connection she brings.

“She is just a wonderful addition to have to the department,” Chief Thompson said. “People sometimes make a deal out of ethnicity and culture, but she was hired because she is good.”

He continued, “I think it is always a positive to have people who are well-connected to the community regardless of the culture.”

Chief Thompson said the department recruits people from all over the country to work at the police department.

“You have people born and raised here, so people know they are in the uniform and a badge but they are a human being,” Chief Thompson said. “The public knows they have seen you grow up since you were small.”

Leavell’s parents still live in Springfield. Her mother and father are well known.

“Her dad and I are very proud of her,” Annette Leavell said. “The fact she wants to serve the community she grew up in is very touching.”

When asked if she ever worries about her daughter, like any mother would, she says yes.

“The human side of me worries, but I know God has her protected,” Annette Leavell said. “He put her in that position and he is going to take care of her.”

Officer Leavell has already come face-to-face with how difficult it can be to police your hometown. On one call, a girl she knew passed away. On another, a man she grew up with was contemplating suicide.

That call ended up impacting her months later.

“I saw him and I said, ‘Hey man,’” she recalled. “He said, ‘Literally you saved my life that day.’ I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

Leavell said that is when she knew her police work would not just be a career—it is her calling.