Breaking The Glass Ceiling: O’Carroll appointed first female police chief


Special to the PRESS

Claudine O’Carroll is South Padre Island’s first female police chief, after serving as interim chief since February. Photo by Pamela Cody.

After serving the city of South Padre Island and working her way up the ranks for 21 years, Claudine O’Carroll has achieved what no woman has before her: She is now the first female police chief in the history of SPI.

“This was the first city I applied for, and the first city I worked for as a cop, and this was the city I wanted to stay with from there on out. It’s a great city to work for and it’s a great police department to work for,” said Claudine, as the interview began.

O’Carroll started on the Island in the Coast Guard in September of ‘94. After finishing her stint with the Coast Guard in June of ‘97, Claudine immediately entered the police academy. “My husband was in law enforcement and I thought ‘hey, this actually looks pretty cool,’” Claudine reminisced.

After graduating from the police academy in December of ‘97, O’Carroll applied to the SPI Police Department in February ‘98 and has been there ever since.

Commenting on what it’s like being a female police chief in what is largely a male dominated field, O’Carroll said “I think my background in the military helped a lot. It was very empowering. I worked with great leaders, and they were all very supportive. So when I stepped into this role, I had that basis before I even started working on this.”

When asked about encountering the “good old boy network” in her career path, O’Carroll paused a moment, then said quietly “Oh yeah, who doesn’t? But in fairness, and by the same token, I’d say I’ve encountered just as much positive reinforcement from the leaders that I’ve worked under. Otherwise you wouldn’t be looking at me in this position. I really have had support throughout my career with the city and with the police department. Chief Randy Smith was the third chief I’ve worked under, and all were very supportive of me from the beginning.”

O’Carroll worked in every avenue of the department and feels it made her a better rounded officer and supervisor. She was on patrol for three years, then to investigations for several years, then back to patrol as a sergeant, a rank she was promoted to in 2004. She then supervised investigations for several years, then lieutenant of special operations, then became a captain. When Chief Randy Smith took the job as SPI city manager, Claudine was appointed interim chief in February of 2019. She was confirmed as the official Chief of Police just this month.

O’Carroll hails from Athlone County, Westmeath, Ireland, an hour and a half from Dublin. “I am an immigrant. I came over here in 1992 when I was 21, to join the military. Through that experience, and meeting my husband, who was involved in law enforcement, I started experiencing his kind of life. and from there on out I was like ‘this is like doing it on the land instead of the water, let’s give this a try!’” she quipped, referring to her Coast Guard background.

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