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Year in Review 2022: Shelter Island Police Department now has a woman officer: Taylor Rando says, ‘I’ve been welcomed with open arms’

This story appeared in February 2022.

Like many people in their early 20s, Taylor Rando, with a morning off, likes to listen to music, work out, or see friends. “I’m a morning person,” she said. “I like to get everything done and have coffee — I really like coffee.”

But few people, and fewer women, then put on a police officer’s uniform to work a shift protecting and serving their communities.

Officer Rando, 24, has become one of the rare women to be a member in the 50-year history of the Shelter Island Police Department. Patricia McGayhey, another Island woman officer, joined in 1998.

Learning of Officer Rando’s appointment, Ms. McGayhey, now retired, but still working part-time for the Nissequogue Police Department, offered advice to Officer Rando and all young women who are considering careers in law enforcement. “Definitely go with your heart,” Ms. McGayhey said. “Be strong. Keep your chin up and be proud.”

Officer Rando’s appointment by the Town Board, whose members are the Island’s police commissioners, as an officer, fulfills an effort to place a woman on the currently all-male staff. It came at the suggestion of Chief Jim Read to the Island’s Police Reform Task Force, which filed its report with New York State at the end of March.

Under a State mandate, each police department in New York had to examine their policing polices with input from the community.

Officer Rando was among the top scorers on a test that was necessary to establish her as a candidate for an appointment. She then had to undergo seven months of training at the Suffolk County Police Department Academy.

“It was challenging,” Officer Rando said. “Very physical. And it takes you out of your comfort zone.”

She described long sessions of role playing, courses on public speaking, and learning to be part of a team. She learned that de-escalation of a situation is one of the key methods of keeping herself and others safe.

”Situations can turn quickly,” she said. “Knowing how to talk to people, to be calm but definite, is important. Words are always better than force, but you have to be ready to use force if you need it.”

The training was an intense learning experience, but well worth it. “There was a lot of yelling at you and learning to keep your focus while that’s happening,” the officer said. “The idea was that if you can’t take it in here, you won’t be able to take it out there.”

Graduating in November, Ms. Rando, as the lone woman on the 10-person force, was welcomed enthusiastically by her fellow officers, she said. Chief Read called the appointment “a real win-win.” He said a woman officer would be positioned for much needed backup, and the hiring would help enhance public safety, improve handling of mental health calls and help to de-escalate potentially volatile situations. 

Officer Sean Clark said, “Taylor has been diligent with completing all of her training and is eager to learn. Every officer brings a unique skill set and perception to the force. We’re thrilled to have Taylor on our team and look forward to what she brings to the community.”

Officer Rando considers herself fortunate to be a member of the Island force, noting she’s heard of other departments where men look down on their female colleagues. “Here, I’ve been welcomed with open arms and encouraged,” she said.

Working with a partner, Officer Rando has responded to several domestic abuse calls. A woman officer helps in these situations, she said. “Women will speak more easily to another woman, and we can separate the male and female to find out what’s going on and what course to take,” she said. “It doesn’t work all the time, sometimes they don’t want to speak with anyone, but it’s always good to have the option.”

As a girl growing up on the Island, law enforcement was not even a consideration for a career. “I was a creative person and wanted to be an artist,” she said. Her goal was to be a fashion designer, and after graduating from Shelter Island High School, she took a degree from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in fashion design.

Looking for a summer job three years ago, she saw there was an opening for a traffic control officer with the Police Department. Her cousin, Anthony Rando, an Island officer, encouraged her to take the job.

“I had no intention of making this a career then,” Officer Rando said, but something clicked and, with encouragement from Chief Read and other officers, she made her decision.

She still nourishes her creative side, sketching during her time off and, “I still sew. I’ll work on the guys’ uniforms. And my own.”

The work is rewarding, but she’s still figuring out how to handle the split shifts of police work. The 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. is taking some getting used to. Eating before, during and after the shift is “challenging,” she admitted, but she tries to eat healthy. “Something light, like a smoothie.” And sleeping also takes strategy. “But I’m working it out,” she said.