Growing up during the 1970s, young women wanting to be police officers saw few role models on television. For IU Police Department Bloomington Chief Laury Flint, the person she saw on TV who came closest to the person she wanted to be was Julie Barnes of "The Mod Squad."
But Flint is quick to add -- with a laugh -- that she didn't try to emulate Barnes' character, one of three formerly rebellious, young social outcasts turned into hip undercover cops.
"Probably since the time I was 8 years old, I started talking about being a police officer," she said. "I know people will say it was police shows. ... I just think I always wanted to help people."
When Flint began her career as a student at IU Bloomington in 1980, there were few women in law enforcement. But she wasn't the only female cadet in her class at the police academy, and IUPD Bloomington already had women on the force.
"IUPD Bloomington has always been ahead of the curve," she said, adding that other women have served in leadership positions during Flint's 33-year career with the department.
Flint graduated from the IU Police Academy a year later and earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice after three and a half years.
With graduation approaching, Flint had applied for a position on the Los Angeles Police Department. But while making arrangements to travel there for an interview, the IUPD supervisor who oversaw the academy asked if she would apply for a full-time position here, which had not occurred to her.
"When I took that job, I was pretty certain that it was going to be a stepping stone -- a couple of years, get some experience," she added. "Time went by. I made friends. I liked it here. I mean, what can you say bad about Bloomington?"
The 2007 graduate of the FBI National Academy acknowledges there were challenges to being a woman in a male-dominated field such as law enforcement, particularly early on.
"You certainly weren't accepted until you proved yourself," she recalled. "Things like sexual harassment and that kind of language weren't even something that you thought about. It was just part of the job -- all 'in good fun' as they say. So it really was a good-old-boy system. You just had to make yourself fit in."
Flint served as a patrol officer for 20 years and then as a uniform sergeant, uniform lieutenant, deputy chief of police and, more recently, interim police chief, all on the Bloomington campus. In November 2013, she became the first woman appointed to lead the IU Police Department Bloomington, which today has 40 full-time officers.
"My heart and soul is in this department. I've grown up here," she said.
Lt. Tom Lee, a 20-year veteran of the department, said Flint is one of the hardest working people he's ever met. "It's nose to the grindstone and just literally won't settle for anything less than the best," he said. "She is not afraid to roll her sleeves up, and that sort of example is kind of contagious."
Sadly for Flint and the rest of the department, she was thrust into the position of chief after the sudden death of Keith Cash.
"What an emotional upheaval that was for everyone here, particularly me," Lee said. "She came in and provided just absolutely the right amount of pressure to the tiller, as it were.
"She pretty much carried the department emotionally as we all went through the mourning process. And I know it was a pretty emotional time for her as well."
Mementos of Cash's and other reminders of him can readily be found in her office and elsewhere throughout the police station (a memorial patio in his honor will be dedicated this spring). She stays in touch with Cash's mother.
"Keith was instrumental in making sure that I got the deputy chief's position," which had never gone to a woman before, she noted.
Flint is not the only female police chief in the IU system. IU Northwest in 2012 named Patricia Nowak the first female police chief at any IU campus.
The advice Flint gives to young women considering a career in law enforcement is the same as what she would give to anyone: "If it's something that you want, never give up ... keep working at it."