March 29, 2024

Celebrating the Barrier-Breaking Women of Virginia Beach Police Department

As Women’s History Month comes to an end, we honor the valor and dedication of the remarkable women of the VBPD.

VBPD Women in Leadership

In a world where courage knows no gender, female police officers stand as beacons of strength, compassion, and resilience. As Women’s History Month comes to an end, we honor the valor and dedication of the remarkable women of the Virginia Beach Police Department and recognize the profound impact they have on our community. 

Breaking Barriers 

Law enforcement has historically been a male-dominated field. However, over the decades, courageous women have shattered stereotypes and paved the way for future generations. From the first female police officer in 1910 – Alice Stebbins Wells (Los Angeles) – women have been breaking barriers and proving their mettle in every aspect of police work.  

Today, we are proud to celebrate the trailblazing women of the VBPD who broke barriers of their own: 

  • Lieutenant Nicole Kosmas – First Female SWAT Operator  
  • Captain Michele Meister – First LGBTQ Liaison Officer  
  • Sergeant Cynthia Santiago – First Latina Sergeant  
  • Sergeant Tricia Shelton – First Female African American Sergeant  
  • Deputy Chief Shannon Wichtendahl – First Female Deputy Chief 
  • Lieutenant Rachel Wigand – First Female Asian American Supervisor 


  • Aubrey Turner – First Female K9 Handler 
  • Diane Lowman – First Female Sergeant 
  • Sandra Baum – First Female Lieutenant and First Female Captain 

Leading by Example 

In their leadership roles, these women inspire others through their dedication, professionalism, and integrity. They have proven that gender is no barrier to success in law enforcement. Their leadership not only empowers their fellow officers but also encourages young women to pursue careers in policing, ensuring a more diverse and inclusive future for the profession. 

In 2021, Chief Paul Neudigate signed the national 30x30 pledge, committing to diversifying VBPD’s recruiting classes with the goal of 30% being female by 2030. Representation in policing is so important, as it is not merely about enforcing laws; it's about serving, protecting, and connecting with communities.

Celebrating Success 

Recognizing the remarkable achievements of the female police officers in the VBPD, we acknowledge their sacrifices, unwavering dedication and invaluable contributions to law enforcement. They are not just officers; they are role models, mentors and guardians of justice.

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