Midland Helped Pave Path for Audrey Arbuckle's Career in Law Enforcement

Midland Helped Pave Path for Audrey Arbuckle's Career in Law Enforcement

Monday, May 15, 2023

This story was originally published in the 2022 Midland Magazine.

She had always planned on becoming a cop. What Audrey Arbuckle ‘13 didn’t plan on was the first step in her journey toward a career in law enforcement being a lifechanging event.

Arbuckle fixated on two things while growing up in Aurora, Colorado - lacrosse and law enforcement. When she received a lacrosse scholarship to attend Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, she would be able to pursue both her passions. She made the 500-mile trip across Nebraska with her parents, explaining along the way her decision to become a criminal justice major. Plans were in place.

That summer, Arbuckle was playing club lacrosse when she received a call from one of her high school teammates, who would be joining her on the Dana team. “I get a phone call and she tells me ‘did you hear our college closed?’ ” Arbuckle said. “It was a rough transition because I didn’t know what my next step was. I looked around at a few colleges closer to home, but at that point in my life, I wanted to get away and do something different. I also wanted to be somewhere I could continue playing lacrosse.”

When Dana College closed in the summer of 2010, Midland University offered the entire lacrosse program, and coach Christine Hatton, an opportunity to start a new program on Midland’s campus. “My coach called me and basically picked Midland for me, which in hindsight was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Arbuckle said. “It was a stressful time, but I’m glad it worked out the way it did because Midland opened a lot of doors for me. It allowed me to have the college experience I wanted.”

Her college life was settled, but her personal life was dealt the cruelest of blows in April of her freshman year when she received word her mom had passed away. “It was the biggest life-changing moment I’ve ever gone through,” she said. “I’m so grateful for how understanding my professors were. They basically froze my grades for the year and let me spend the rest of the semester at home and start anew in the fall. That was one of the great things about Midland. Your professors not only knew your name, but they knew about you. If you were struggling, they knew.”

Beyond her professors, Arbuckle found support from her lacrosse teammates, several of whom she had played with in high school. “My mom passed away around Easter, so many of my teammates who were home from school came over to my house,” she said. “When I came back to Midland that next fall, my teammates would always ask if there was anything they could do to help. On the year anniversary of my mom’s death, they showed up at my dorm room and brought me gifts and just sat around with me all day watching movies. It’s great to be at a place where you can form those relationships. That’s when you know you’re home. Every time I think about Midland, I get really happy.”

Many of those relationships were built through athletics and Arbuckle remains grateful Midland gave her the opportunity to continue playing lacrosse. “I would never have gone to college if it weren’t for athletics and Midland opened that door for me,” she said. “Being an athlete has paid off for me. When employers found out that I was a college athlete, they knew I was dedicated, good at time management, and good at working with a team. It was beneficial going through the Police Academy, and in my job now, because you have to be in good physical shape.”

Through the highs and lows, Arbuckle never lost sight of her vision to become a police officer. She graduated a semester early from Midland and immediately began the process of finding a police force to join. She had interned with the Fremont Police Department, but they weren’t hiring at that time.

Arbuckle then applied with the police department in Crete, a town of about 7,000 people. She was hired shortly after and eight years later, couldn’t be happier with her decision. Currently a senior patrol officer, Arbuckle has visions of someday moving up the ranks to be part of command staff. “When I first got here, I figured I’d be here for three or four years, then move on to a bigger place,” she said. “But now, I plan on spending the rest of my career here. There’s never a dull moment. We deal with all the things bigger cities deal with, but I like the fact that because we don’t have a detective bureau here, every case I work with becomes mine.”

All the training in the world can’t prepare a police officer for what they might see on a given day. Arbuckle has accepted that there will be bad days on the job, when you see things you simply can’t unsee. “I fully understand there are a lot of things people shouldn’t see, but I signed up to be the one to see them so they don’t,” she said. “It’s why there are several coping mechanisms in place, whether it be through counseling, meeting with our team, or for me, running and exercising.”

Her current schedule has her working the 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift four days a week. But during her days away from patrol, it’s hard to turn off the switch. “Even on my days off, I always have the police radio on, and I’m always hyper aware of my surroundings,” she said.

Arbuckle admits she grew up having a skewed view of law enforcement and rarely had positive experiences when it came to interacting with cops. She’s worked hard to help change the perception of police officers for both children and adults. “I’m in this job for the right reason and that’s to be cool, calm, and collected to work to solve a problem,” she said. “We want to put out a good product the community can respect, without always having to take people to jail.”

Changing that image has been helpful through several programs the Crete PD has in place to foster community policing. “We’re out at events where we meet kids and let them sit in our cars,” she said. “Each year, we do Operation Under the Tree where we raise money for gifts for children who are in the backpack program at local schools. Last year, we raised more than $8,000 and helped over 400 kids. Crete is also a large Latino community, so we work closely with Latino churches to let families know we’re here for them and they don’t need to be afraid of us.”

Arbuckle is one of two female officers on the Crete PD. She believes being a female officer is a non-issue amongst her peers. “I’ve never felt any bias from other cops, in fact, my sergeant always tells me he wants a female as his partner because he knows we’re not afraid of anything,” she said.

Her memories of Midland remain strong, and Arbuckle has done her part to give back to her alma mater over the years by speaking to various classes. “I’m the lone Midland alum among five Doane alum,” Arbuckle laughed. “I love speaking to classes whenever I can because it’s a great recruiting tool and almost every department is looking for more help.” “I tell students that law enforcement is a special calling, and you’ll know the moment you walk in the door if it’s right for you. It’s a big sacrifice because while law enforcement isn’t your entire life, it’s a big part of it. It’s an experience that will change your life. I know I’m not the same person I was eight years ago.”

She believes many of her ideals were formed during her time at Midland, and she carries those same beliefs with her today. “Midland gave me the structure I needed in life,” she said. “It ingrained in me what you need to be successful. I couldn’t have done that without Midland.”­­