By Mark Murray
New York Police Department (NYPD), Deputy Inspector, Rhonda O’Reilly-Bovell is challenging young girls to aspire to be more than just a traditional woman. This is so given her role as the first and only female Guyanese to have held such high ranking position in the NYPD.
“Be confident and believe in yourself and never doubt your abilities as a female and you can do anything you put your mind to…doing it just as well or better as your male counterparts,” she says.
She left Guyana some 28 years ago when she was 16. But she has not forgotten her heritage after stepping foot on a plane in search of a better life in the United States of America.
At the beginning of 2018, Rhonda was promoted amidst a shake-up in the department’s top ranks as she replaced her male counterpart, Steven Hellman, as the Precinct’s Commanding Officer. However, this is not the first time that a woman would have headed the 7th Precinct as commanding officer.
Before that, she was recently in charge of Transit District 2. Previously she was captain at the 30th Precinct in Harlem and served in the 63rd Precinct in Brooklyn (Bergen Beach/Flabush/Marine Park)
She believes that her success could not have been possible without her female mentor and male sponsor, who are being credited for their tremendous help during her climb up the ranks of the NYPD.
Immediately after graduating from Hunter College in 1996, Rhonda became an NYPD Officer, having joined the Cadet Corps while attending school.
Rhonda explained that “it was not the first thing on [her] mind, however [she] has no regrets.”
She holds an undergraduate Degree in Sociology from Hunter College and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Marist College.
Rhonda’s educational journey would have started at the East Ruimveldt Secondary School and continue at the St. Rose’s High School in Guyana.
On May 4, 2018, Deputy Inspector Mrs O’Reilly-Bovell was inducted into Hunter College Hall of Fame and presented with a certificate for her astounding accomplishments.
During an exclusive interview with News Room’s, Mark Murray, Rhonda recounted how “difficult” it was leaving Guyana, but recognized the incredible family support she got while building her new life in America.
According to her, she has not forgotten her heritage, something she’s trying to teach her 11 and 15-year- old girls.
For this brave NYPD Officer, education remains vitally important, while assigning chores to her children around the house is a form of discipline.
Mrs O’Reilly-Bovell has enjoyed being married to her husband, who is also an NYPD Officer.
“In the midst of everything we still find time to connect with each other,” she explained.
“Amazing” is how Rhonda describes her husband followed by a blush as if they were High School sweethearts.
“It is not about you and there is no ‘I’ in a team, therefore one must ensure that time to reconnect with each other is always available on one’s busy schedule.”
When it comes to raising their children, she noted that her in-laws are “very supportive,” since they too were NYPD Officers who have since retired and knows what it means to serve given the demands of the job.
“They were able to fill in when we were not able to do so,” O’Reilly-Bovell stated.
Being a black woman has never stopped her from breaking barriers.
“The beautiful thing about the NYPD is that it is an equal opportunity employer.”
With such a humble background, O’Reilly-Bovell believes she brought something different to the table and, “was able to offer…an understanding to [her] American counterparts…as to how to interact with people of West Indian descent.”
When she is not actively in the line of duty, she enjoys travelling and reading, or simply some quality family to time to do the trick.
“I never forget where I came from,” states Rhonda, as she believes that culture is absolutely important.
As a demonstration of this, Rhonda is the co-founder and current president of the Guyanese American Law Enforcement Association (GALEA), a non-profit organization formed after the death of Police Detective Randolph Holder Jr. in 2015, who died in the line of duty.
Today, there are over 200 active members who have since joined her organization both from civilian and law enforcement backgrounds. This she strongly thinks serves as a reminder of where they came from. Ever since its establishment, the body is known for its charitable work in Guyana as well as the United States.
The thought of being a cop on the streets of New York, at the beginning of her law enforcement career, presented O’Reilly-Bovell with tremendous fear, one that she would soon overcome with leaps and bounds.
“As you know [learn] what the rules and regulations are you [begin to] build that confidence and you are able to overcome the struggles and challenges,” she explained.
She is known as that Officer who always can be seen with a pleasant smile, even when the job might present a difficult task. “I always try to maintain a positive self-image and try to smile.”
With the NYPD continuously being criticized for the manner in which they operate towards some sections of the black community, O’Reilly-Bovell remains optimistic that a day will come when the NYPD will not be seen in this negative light.
“In any organization, you are going to have people who have biases.
“I think we all have biases, however, I try to be fair and for the most part I am fair,” said the NYPD Deputy Inspector.
She spoke of the rigorous fair and impartial training NYPD Officers are going through as the body works towards improving the way they interact with people of colour.
“It’s a step in the right direction and I give a lot of credit to our current administration…every organization you are going to have a few rotten apples, but NYPD is committed to treating people fairly,” she added.
When all is said and done, O’Reilly-Bovell would like to be remembered after she retires as that individual who was able to give back to those aspiring to climb up the rank of the NYPD.
When asked what she misses the most about her home county, she replied: “This Guyanese girl misses the year-round warm weather characteristic of ‘GT’ along with the abundance of fresh food, whether it’s my favourite cook-up-rice or chowmein and vegetables.”