She was a local pioneer in uniform in a career of firsts.
“I was the first Hispanic female Sargent, first Hispanic female lieutenant, first Hispanic female captain, first Hispanic female major," said retired Maj. Grace O'Donnell.
When O'Donnell was hired by the department in 1974, her bosses could not find another police department in the United States with a Cuban-born woman officer on staff.
“There were no other Latin females so in the beginning, I used a lot in translations and stuff but still you had to go out and work on the road like everybody else,” she said.
O'Donnell lived with her parents when she started her police career at the age of 20 - and still had a curfew.
"I think it was 11, I had to be home by 11 p.m.," she said with a laugh.
Female officers did not even wear pants when she was hired and did not even get the same weapons.
"I had a uniform with a skirt, which really does not lend itself very well to jumping over fences," O'Donnell said. “The men had a four inch barrel gun, we had a three inch barrel gun.”
Eventually, O'Donnell did get pants and a bigger gun but when going on patrol she still had to face another challenge.
“There was some resistance from the guys who didn’t want to ride with a female, but eventually you know, you won them over and you became partners.," she said.
O'Donnell would spend three and a half decades in uniform - all along, seeking one thing.
“Acceptance as an equal, that's all you want is you want to be accepted as an equal," she said. "It’s a male dominated career, and you want to look at it as I want to be a police officer, not just a female police officer, not just a Hispanic police officer."
Since retiring in 2010, she became a reserve officer working with comfort animals. After the Surfside condo collapse in June, O'Donnell brought her trained Dachshund named Jeepers to soothe the grieving.
Now with a total of 368 Hispanic women in the department, O'Donnell looks back on her legacy with gratitude.
“I’m glad I got to put my stamp on the department, I got to make a difference,” she said.
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