Our Fallen Sisters: A Brother's Tribute

By Joseph R. Uliano, M.A., Ed.S.

In a politically correct society, we often hear women calling for more gender equality, but in our society, the society of law enforcement, these words are hardly spoken. Some may ask why is that? I think this can be summed up in two answers. The first, our sisters who hold the line alongside our brothers are “Bad Asses.” For the second, refer to the first answer. In 2018, females accounted for approximately 13% of the United States’ law enforcement population, a profession that is male dominated by 87%, yet those in the lady’s locker room at shift change aren’t speaking of gender inequality, because they are too busy saying, “Send me, I will go!”

On January 10th, 22-year-old rookie Police Officer Natalie Corona received the call of a motor vehicle crash, and like any other call, she went. A routine call even for a rookie officer. However, this was not routine, as an unknown monster stood in the dark savoring his lust for the blood of a police officer. Unfortunately, Corona fell victim to the evilness that awaited her arrival, as she was caught by surprise and shot multiple times. In an eerie resemblance, we learned that Police Officer Chateri Payne was shot and killed just the day before Corona.

Shortly after putting on her uniform, Payne exited her home and set out to go toward her calling, the calling of helping those in need. However, she never made it past her driveway as she was later found shot multiple times lying next to her vehicle.

Like Corona, Payne was also 22 years old. Corona completed her field training in December of 2018, while Payne completed hers in November of 2018. At the time of this story it appears that both officers were the target of an unimaginable ambush at the hands of a coward, who wouldn’t dare challenge either of these two warriors to a fair fight.

What’s most troubling and difficult to accept is that both officers were in their early twenties, because as they say, that’s when you have your whole life ahead of you. Perhaps these are some of your best years, as you live free, climb the ladder of success, and work toward accomplishing your goals, all while securing your future with the hope of one day raising a loving family. Images of Corona and Payne depict all the above, as we see two young women living free and accomplishing their goals, but their story is no fairytale and the ending is a far cry from being happy, as their journey was tragically cut short.

Theologian, Lynn H. Hough (1920), said it best, “Life is a journey and not a destination,” implying that we can choose our journey, but our destination is unfortunately often chosen for us. In this case, both Corona and Payne chose their journey and lived it to its fullest, knowing full well the risks associated with it, but they continued the path anyway, defining their strength and courage along the way.

In closing, I would be remiss not to mention at the time of Corona’s death there were five officers killed in the line of duty thus far this year and that Corona and Payne account for 40% of those killed. An alarming statistic going into the new year, since we know women only account for 13% of the law enforcement population. Of the remaining 13%, I can only say to you that you are part of something special, and your courage is admirable, not only because you chose to become law enforcement officers, but because you choose to stay and fight the evil among us.

May the sacrifice of Corona and Payne serve as an example to other young women chasing their dreams, whatever those dreams may be, and perhaps one day we may even see a few of them standing the BLUE LINE alongside our brothers and sisters out on the beat.

Joe Uliano has served as a police officer for over fifteen years, and is assigned as field training officer and departmental instructor. He is currently a Doctoral Candidate in Education at Seton Hall University, where he also earned an Educational Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Management. Prior to earning this advanced degree, he also earned a Master’s Degree in Human Resources, Training, and Development and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice.