Sheree Stewart, First Woman Command Echelon Officer In SBSO, Retires

Sheree Stewart, the first woman to rise to the command echelon of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, is retiring tomorrow, bringing to a close her  31-year law enforcement career.
Stewart holds two firsts with the department, being the first person of her gender to reach the rank of captain and the first to accede to the status of deputy chief.
Known as “Big Mama” by many of the deputies, Stewart cut a sharp swath through the department even relatively early in her career.
A native of Lockport, N.Y., she came to Southern California in 1980 and landed the relatively humble position of a department intern in 1981. She graduated from the department’s academy and then went to work as a patrol deputy. Under former sheriff Floyd Tidwell, she advanced to the rank of sergeant and was given what many considered to be an exile assignment in the department’s internal affairs division, then known as professional standards. In that billet, she promoted to lieutenant and exhibited a flare for in-depth analysis and independence, often sustaining citizen complaints against deputies in an era when such occurrences were rare to non-existent.
Subsequently she was promoted to captain and was given command of the department’s Highland station, where she remained a half dozen years. In 2005, she was promoted to deputy chief.
During her career, women made slow and sometimes uncertain progress but nevertheless steady, and in a few cases such as Steward’s, dramatic strides in San Bernardino County law enforcement as the oftentimes machismo ethos of policing has strained to accommodate distaff officers. In 2007, former Los Angeles police lieutenant Diane Burns became the county’s first police chief when she was hired to head the Barstow Police Department.
Stewart, 54, who is married to a former helicopter pilot with the sheriff’s department, has four sons and a granddaughter.

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