One of Lenexa’s finest is being recognized with a national award for her years of dedication to law enforcement.
Lenexa Police Maj. Dawn Layman was named the Woman Law Enforcement Executive of the Year by the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, called NAWLEE, at its recent conference in Hartford, Conn.
NAWLEE, a non-profit organization focused on addressing the needs of women in senior management positions in law enforcement, established the award 13 years ago to recognize women who have found success in their own careers while helping to mentor other female law enforcement professionals.
Layman currently serves as the division commander for the staff services division of the Lenexa Police Department. In this role she oversees technology, dispatch, technical services, property and evidence and public service officers.
She began her law enforcement career in Pennsylvania in 1989 and joined the Lenexa Police Department in 1993. Two years after that, her boss at the time, retired Lenexa Police Chief Ellen Hanson, took her to her first NAWLEE convention and Layman said her life was forever changed.
“It was an amazing experience to see so many women accomplish so much,” Layman said.
Layman has been involved with the organization ever since. She served on the board for four years, including a stint as president from 2011-2012.
Layman won this year’s award as NAWLEE celebrates its 20th anniversary.
“To win the award that many years later is very overwhelming and humbling,” Layman said. “But I think Chief Hanson taking me to that conference in 1995 had a large impact on me. It gave me an insight into what possibilities were out there.”
The possibility of being a police officer hadn’t even been on Layman’s radar until she was a junior in college. That’s the year she changed her major from health and physical education to criminal justice.
It came a year after she was involved in a minor traffic accident and was helped by a female police officer. It was quite a change from her days as a child in New Jersey where her father was a state trooper.
“That interaction with the female police officer at the accident scene, kind of opened my eyes,” Layman said. “I never saw a female in a law enforcement position when I was young and my father was a state trooper.”
Today, Layman said that women make up only about 13 percent of law enforcement officers, with only 1 to 2 percent of those women reaching top leadership roles like police chief.
As Layman’s career has evolved from its early days to her current role in administration, she said she has been lucky to work in such a supportive environment like the Lenexa Police Department.
“The overall picture for me has been very easy,” Layman said. “But other women in law enforcement have had it more difficult. Others have paved the way for me.”
In her more than 20-year career in Lenexa, Layman has accomplished quite a lot, including the creation and implementation of a mentoring program pairing new hires with current employees, body-worn video cameras in 2009, a license plate recognition program and a public-private security camera partnership, among other things.
In her current role, she especially enjoys the opportunity to help other officers to achieve their own level of success in their careers, whether it’s by helping to make their job easier through technology or just by talking to them.
“I really enjoy my job and I want them to have the same experience and to have success professionally,” Layman said.
But what Layman really likes most about her job is the chance every day to make a connection with someone and to help them in some small way.
“You never know what impact you are going to have on someone and what impact they will have on you later in life,” Layman said. “For me, it’s more about the relationships you make and the people you come in contact with. With everyone you meet, you leave a little piece of yourself and you get a piece of them from that experience.”
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