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Ever since the first police departments in the U.S. were formed in the mid-19th century, policing has been viewed by most as a traditionally male career path.
In 1970, only about 2 percent of all police officers in the United States were women, as compared to 13-14 percent today.
In 1974, 27-year-old Sandy Goss, along with two other female recruits, graduated from the Springfield Police Department’s police academy. Before 1974, women were not accepted into SPD's academy.
“I spent two years trying to get into the academy … finally, the city manager at the time told the police department that they had to accept women,” Goss said.
Upon graduation from the academy, Goss worked for the Springfield-Branson National Airport as an airport police officer for 16 years.
While serving at the airport, Goss, at the time a single mother of two, began to feel drawn to working to put those who victimize children behind bars.
“I felt that investigating child abuse cases was where I could be most useful in law enforcement,” Goss said. “I knew that it would be involve going back to school and a lot of training to learn interviewing and interrogation techniques, but I had to do it.”
While continuing to work full time, she took night classes at Drury University to pursue a criminal justice degree.
Goss joined SPD in 1991, after graduating from the police academy – again – at the age of 44, which was required because she hadn’t worked as a street officer.
“The physical agility requirements were definitely more intense in 1991 than they were in 1974, but I was able to make it through and graduate,” Goss said.
Goss served in SPD’s patrol division and was specially assigned to SPD’s mounted patrol in 1992 and 1993.
In 1995, she achieved the rank of corporal and became a detective, investigating special victims cases (cases involving child abuse and neglect and child sexual abuse) for nearly 12 years.
“Oh yes, it wore on me,” she said, about the job. “As a bailiff now at Municipal Court, I sometimes come across victims from my years investigating and see how the abuse still affects their lives as adults. But there are times when I run into a victim or a relative of a victim who tells me they’re doing well, and that’s very rewarding,” she said.
“I describe the years I spent as an investigator as heartbreaking, but rewarding,” Goss added. “Heartbreaking, because of what those kids went through, but rewarding, because even when we were not able to put an abuser behind bars, we were often able to get the child out of the home they were being abused in.”
In 1997, Goss became president of the Missouri Police Juvenile Officers Association, for which she continues to serve as a board member.
Goss retired from SPD in 2006 and joined the Municipal Court as a bailiff, where she has continued to serve and protect.
“Sandy actually told my mother one day that she would take a bullet for me,” said Judge Becky Borthwick. “Although this has been a ‘retirement’ job for her, she takes it very seriously and is very competent. She has had to defuse many situations in the courtroom in her time as a bailiff,” Borthwick said.
After 41 years serving the City of Springfield, Goss will retire on Friday and plans to spend time on her farm near Mount Vernon tending to her horses and playing with her three grandchildren.
She will be available for interviews at Municipal Court after 12:30 p.m. Friday.
For more information, please contact Court Administrator Deanna Farley at 417-864-1360.
Cutline: Goss, pictured front right on the paint horse, served in SPD’s patrol division and was specially assigned to SPD’s mounted patrol in 1992 and 1993.