NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - On the force of the New Bern Police Department for nearly three decades is a trail blazing mother of two.
"I know I was the first female K-9 handler, I was on the first K-9 team in New Bern, there was three of us," says Sgt. Maria Bowen-Perry.
She was also the first female sergeant in the department's forensic unit and is their only court qualified expert for fingerprint examination and crime scene processing.
This officer says she couldn't imagine doing anything else. "To really help people, not just have the negative contact with people that you have, but the good, the positive that some folks never get," she says. "I truly believe I was called to do this job."
That positive attitude is something Police Chief Toussaint Summers says is a vital asset to their department. "She's compassionate and cares for the people she supervises, but more importantly, she cares for the people in the community."
From 10 years in the Amy Reserves to her 29 years with the police department, where she's patrols the streets and helps train and mentor incoming officers, Sgt. Bowen-Perry has seen a lot over the years.
"When I was in forensics, I saw a lot of bad stuff, a lot of homicides, murders, senseless crimes against people," she explains. "And I turned my focus towards the victims and the victim's families to try and make that wrong, right, win the case in court for the family."
Dedication to family runs deep as Maria's other job is as a single mom.
"She's just very strong and independent, she's probably just the best mom you could ever ask for," says her 11-year-old son, Mark Perry.
Her 19-year-old daughter, Gabrielle Bowen, says, "My mom is like the most inspirational person I know. She has been through a lot and she always has a smile on her face."
Holidays, severe weather, twelve hour shifts, and times where she's constantly on call, a job in law enforcement requires a lot of sacrifice.
"It has made me appreciate my family, most of all it makes you appreciate the little things in life, not take your family for granted, because you could be here today and gone tomorrow," Sgt. Bowen-Perry says.
Gabrielle says it was her mom that got her through school, despite being bullied and dropping out, and her mom is the reason she's now getting her associate degree in criminal justice.
"If I didn't have a strong female role model like that, I wouldn't have gotten through it," she explains.
She and Mark both are interested in pursuing a career in federal law enforcement instead of local law enforcement, but they both say their mom is their inspiration.
In this day and age where officers are in the spotlight and sometimes even targeted just for wearing their uniform, these kids worry about their mom now more than ever.
"I think anybody that can sit down and say they aren't scared, there's something wrong with them," Maria says. "I'm flesh, I'm human just like anybody else, I have feelings. So yeah, there are things that scare you in this job, but you can't let it stop you, you gotta walk through the fear."
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They are revealed every third Monday of each month on WITN News at 5.