A TROY alumna who became the first female police captain in Dothan’s history in May said marrying core values and a career is the secret to fulfillment.
Dothan Police Capt. Rachel David has worked for the city nearly two decades, mostly in the patrol division. Today, she commands the Special Operations Division and oversees the Communications Division, Training Division, Community Services Division and Specialty Teams for the department.
“You’re here on this planet for a short time and having your faith and foundation reflected in what you’ll be doing no less than 40 hours a week is crucial to your life. I saw the fit for myself and knew I could do the job and that it was something that I could pursue,” she said.
It was a class in her criminal justice minor that put her on the law enforcement track.
“We were not required, but we were encouraged to do ride-alongs with Dothan PD, so I did a ride-along with the husband of a good friend of mine. It really opened my eyes to the career, and I saw it as a great opportunity to be in a service-related field,” David said.
David completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in criminal justice at the Dothan Campus, then went on to complete a master’s degree in community counseling in 2006 – having to transfer to the Pensacola site for her very last class.
“I put myself through college and had a couple of jobs. It was really tough, but I really placed a value on doing the coursework and doing well – I wanted to put my best foot forward and do the best academically as I could,” she said. “I took the summer off when I graduated but went right back into graduate work because I wanted to enhance by education and the master’s degree was a personal goal of mine.”
She said it was her father who inspired pursuing her education, even with working full time.
“My dad learned to read at 25 years of age and pursued a calling into the ministry. He had never gone to high school,” she said. “He got a GED, a four-year degree and a master’s degree over about an 8-year period with three small children at home. I looked up to that and that work ethic was instilled in me. Who am I to have blessings taken for granted? It wasn’t easy for me but it was more achievable for me than it was for him.”
That work ethic is what drives her professional career in a way that places a premium on education for those under her.
“I believe the biggest part of leadership is mentorship. Somebody had to teach me and show me the way, and now that I’m established, it’s my responsibility to pass it along to those we are raising up to take our place one day,” she said. “I want them to be in shape to continue the mission.”
Along with training up the next generation of law enforcement officers, David said she also understands the importance of the support needed from leadership.
“Those behind-the-scenes roles (of leaders) are what allows the men and women out there to do their jobs. My focus each and every day is to have the manpower, the equipment, the support – and the best of the best of that – for them to be successful on the job. That’s really important to us (at Dothan PD),” she said.
David doesn’t pull back any on her advice, whether it’s to her junior officers or to today’s students.
“I found that you really do well to just put your hands to the plow and go forward and don’t look back – whatever the career field, strive to be the best at it at the moment, and remember that the task you have at hand is yours alone – take ownership of it, and be responsible for your actions,” she said. “If you fail, learn from it. If you succeed, understand that probably someone else did a lot of work to make sure you succeeded.
“It’s yours to own; yours to be proud of; yours to be responsible for; and yours to make the best of. A good attitude will take you further than any skillset anyone could give you,” she said.