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The Daily Reflector

ECU Police Department Sergeant Derri Stormer, pregnant at 31 weeks, prepares to play outdoors with her daughter Isabella, 1, after coming home from work on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily Reflector)

“At first I never even thought I was going to be a mom. When it happens, it changes who you are.”

Sgt. Derri Stormer

ECU police officer

By Jane Dail

Sunday, May 12, 2013

On a day when many mothers are encouraged to not lift a finger and are pampered by their children and spouses, one woman at the East Carolina University Police Department will be working a 12-hour shift.

Sgt. Derri Stormer, supervisor for a patrol squad, is a proud mother of two young girls with a third expected in July.

As is typical for law enforcement officers, she works holidays, weekends and nights, including today.

Stormer said life in law enforcement as a woman can have its challenges. She is one of only 13 women on the 60-member force. Add to that a pregnancy and a supervisory position in which she must advise, direct and instruct other officers.

“In a predominantly male career, I’m sitting here telling somebody all these things and hoping they’re not focusing on my belly,” she said.

With her pregnancy came changes, including no longer wearing her uniform, not responding to calls and doing more to assist behind the scenes.

She opts to work behind the scenes to avoid distracting her officers, who may worry for her and the baby’s safety rather than the task at hand.

“A lot of times, there’s a motivation to hide it because you’re afraid you’re going to get moved to a desk,” Stormer said.

“But I know for my own safety and safety of my officers, I’m going to let them know. … I don’t mind being behind the scenes until I’m back to full capacity again and can be beside them.”

 

Stormer has a deep connection with ECU. She started as an undergraduate student here before transferring her senior year to UNC-Wilmington, where her interest in law enforcement grew while working as a campus security guard.

The Bertie County native wanted to move back to the area and worked one year at the Winterville Police Department and has been working for the past 10 years with ECU police.

“I was comfortable with the university,” Stormer said. “I liked the campus style of law enforcement. It’s a little bit different from municipalities and cities and the sheriff’s office. I wanted that back.”

Stormer then obtained a masters degree at ECU and teaches Rape Aggression Defense classes and serves on the ECU Staff Senate and the UNC System Staff Assembly.

“I give a different perspective, because I was an undergraduate student, a graduate student and a staff member,” she said.

While working for ECU, Stormer met her husband and eventually became a mother, though just a few years prior she never saw that in her future.

“At first I never even thought I was going to be a mom,” she said. “When it happens, it changes who you are.”

Her first child, who is now 5, was a blessing to the woman who never saw herself as a mother, but challenges came, too, she said.

Stormer’s oldest daughter was born with Sturge-Weber Syndrome, a congenital, non-hereditary disorder resulting in “port wine stain” facial birthmarks and neurological abnormalities.

It is often associated with eye issues, including glaucoma and vision loss.

Stormer said her daughter does not walk or talk, though she is far beyond what doctors initially predicted. She also is a loving older sister.

Stormer said her daughter’s port wine stain often will turn red or purple depending on the temperature, and she has to deal with comments that often lack tact.

“People will say things to you, but that’s where being in police actually assists me,” she said. “I deal with that stuff all the time.

“If they’re truly interested, I will tell them about (it). If it’s outright rude, I just act like you’re not even talking to me and I keep moving.”

With a strenuous, albeit rewarding, job, Stormer often is asked why does she not leave her job and stay at home. But her appreciation of law enforcement and a desire to move up in the ranks drives her.

“To be honest, I just don’t think I could stay home,” Stormer said. “Staying home is hard too. A lot of people don’t give a lot of credit to stay-at-home moms. … But my personality, I have learned it won’t let me do it. … But we shall see, because it is going to be interesting with three.”

As much as she enjoys her work, she inevitably has to sacrifice special moments with her children due to her rigid work schedule.

Stormer said she missed seeing her younger daughter’s first steps, though the day care captured it on video for her to see.

“I didn’t get to see that first,” she said. “Those little things tug at you a little bit, but you find ways to kind of deal with that by trying to have special moment times.”

Stormer also missed her oldest daughter compete in the Pitt County Special Olympics this year.

“I took her out to the fair, that was kind of make-up for not being able to be there,” she said. “Those are the little moments that you sacrifice in the job.”

Stormer said she often will not see her children for days when she works night shifts, and when she does see them in passing, they do not want to let mommy go.

“When I was still wearing my uniform, they know that meant mommy went away,” she said. “… That’s when I get the crying or the whining or trying to grab me at the leg.”

As her due date quickly approaches, Stormer said she plans to continue working until she gives birth, unless otherwise advised by her doctor.

She plans to take six to 12 weeks of maternity leave then return to campus when the students come back for the next school year.

Though she will be at police headquarters hard at work today, she said Mother’s Day will have a special place in her heart.

“It makes me appreciate my mother a whole lot more,” Stormer said. “I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I never thought I would have said that in high school or even going to college, but now that I am, I wouldn’t change it.”

Contact Jane Dail at jdail@reflector.com or 252-329-9585.

via The Daily Reflector.

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