There once was a... Dare leads Limerick to blaze trails

Everyone likes to be first, but only a few of us can point to as many trail-blazing accomplishments as Crystal Limerick: She was the first female Albemarle County police officer, the department's first female sergeant, and the first (and only) lieutenant and captain, the position she currently holds.

And all that achievement started with a youthful challenge.

"I had been an education major at Longwood College," she recalls of those days in 1978, "but I knew I didn't want to teach. One of my friends dared me to apply to be a police officer at UVA, and within a week I was enrolled in the Police Academy."

Although she enjoyed working on the UVA force and found that law enforcement provided "tremendous job satisfaction," she took time off for graduate school at Central Missouri State "to prove to myself I could do it," she says.

But the allure of law enforcement proved to be too strong. In 1984 she applied to and was hired by the new Albemarle County Police Department, where she has risen steadily through the ranks to her current position as head of the Operations Bureau where she manages "the vast majority of the department."

What's it like being a woman in a traditionally male occupation?

While acknowledging an obvious problem resentment from a few men who have a hard time admitting that women have a place in law enforcement Limerick is quick to downplay their effects.

"The story is not that I am the first woman," she says, "but that the community has grown in acceptance and tolerance. I'm very fortunate to have a great bunch of people working for me.

"The institution has changed so much," she continues, "but being a woman in law enforcement can still be tough. I hope I can be a role model for other women, someone they can depend on."

Limerick is quick to praise the single mothers on the force who earn her respect for the admirable way they not only perform their professional duties but do so while balancing the demands of shift work and court appearances with complications of child care arrangements and other domestic obligations.

While she has understandably had to resort to force on occasion, Limerick's sense of humor has proved to be a valuable asset when things get dicey. "I've found that there are some people who still don't want to fight a woman," she laughs. "That tickles me, but it's sure been an advantage in some tense situations."

We couldn't leave without asking Captain Limerick the obvious question. Does she have a favorite limerick?

 "None that I can repeat for publication," she laughs.


Age: 47, but a lady never tells.

What brought you here? The beauty and sense of community.

What's worst about living here? Nothing, but we need to keep that a secret.

Favorite hangout? The Tavern

Most overrated virtue? Patience

What would people be surprised to know about you? That I love Classical music.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would always be a better listener.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? Having made a life saving find with my Search and Rescue dog, Lascar.

What do people find most annoying about you? I'm sure they'll tell me after this article.

Whom do you admire? Martin Luther King, because of his strength of conviction.

Favorite book? Chesapeake by James Michener

What subject causes you to rant? People not wearing seat belts

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? The advantages of instant communication.

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? That information can be confused as communication.

What do you drive? An old Suburban.

What's in your car CD/tape player right now? No tape, no CD, just NPR.

What's your next journey? Anywhere my RV will take me.

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? A speeding ticket when I was in high school.

What do you regret? Never having enough time to spend with my friends.

Favorite comfort food? Steak

What's always in your refrigerator? Diet Dr. Pepper

Must-see TV? Survivor

 Favorite cartoon? I skip that section of the paper.

Describe a perfect day. A clean run with my competition agility dog.

Walter Mitty fantasy? To sing "My favorite things" with Julie Andrews.

Who'd play you in the movie? Kate Jackson. I met her once, and I thought she was awesome.

Most embarrassing moment? You'll have to bribe my friends to find out.

Best advice you ever got? Measure twice, cut once.

Favorite bumper sticker? No Whining