By Katie McBride
When most people’s alarm clocks go off in the morning, they do one of several things. They either (a) grunt, smack the alarm clock for several seconds before they find the snooze, and go back to sleep, (b) grunt, get out of bed and curse the impending work day, or (c) skip work all together. However, for Cecilee Tangel, the work day is simply another chance to do something she loves.Cecilee Tangel is a police officer at Eastern. She has worked with law enforcement since 1980 in a variety of different fields.
Tangel was born in Milwaukee and grew up between Wisconsin and New Jersey. She attended the University of Kentucky and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Tangel became interested in law enforcement by covering the police beat of a local media organization.
“I specifically remember one time , as a reporter, being outside the yellow tape at a crime scene and I kind of decided that I wanted to be inside, and I wanted to know what was going on,” said Tangel. “It just sort of hit me.”
Tangel was working at WHAS Radio in Louisville when she got her big break into the world of law enforcement. She worked for a nighttime radio show, and one evening the host was interviewing the Louisville public information officer of the FBI.
During a commercial break, the man took her aside and asked if she had ever considered going into the FBI. She said no, because she was under the impression that there were stricter guidelines in place for FBI agents. However, because of her background in news reporting, the man told her she had a shot.
He encouraged her to apply, and two years later, Tangel was hired into the FBI.
“Professionally, I’ve had really a dual career in broadcast news and in law enforcement,” Tangel said. “I’ve been described as the most liberal police officer and the most conservative reporter. I’m always trying to justify one profession to the other.”
Tangel trained for the FBI in Quantico, Va. for four and a half months.
“It was pretty rigorous. We had to do the same things that the men had to do,” Tangel said. “For us, like everyday I thought I was going to be going home. Like every day, I was always worried.”
Tangel said she was inspired by the Kentucky Derby in 1980. That year, a filly named Genuine Risk won the Derby.
“It was quite an inspiration to me and the other women in the class,” Tangel said. “That was a good year for fillies.”
For her first year in the FBI, Tangel was assigned to the Louisville division, where she worked with bank robberies and fugitives.
She was then transferred to the Chicago division for three years, where she dealt with property crimes, truck hijackings, theft from interstate shipments and East German and Russian counter-intelligence.
Tangel actually met her husband through her work in the FBI. She was with the FBI in Louisvile, and he was a violent crimes detective in Jefferson County. They met while investigating a rape kidnapping in which the victim was taken over the border to Indiana.
Because the victim was taken across state lines, the FBI was brought in.
She said meeting her husband that way “isn’t the most romantic” way to meet, but it was definitely “unusual.”
After her time in the FBI, Tangel worked as a reporter again at WLKY in Louisville.
She missed her police work, though, and went to work as an officer for the Jefferson County Police.
“I love the immediate nature of the work that we do. At the end of a shift, you know, I’ve basically completed everything that I need to do. Where the federal folks are more about long-term investigations, it was frustrating to me,” Tangel said. “I prefer maybe seeing the immediate rewards of what I’m doing. For me, it was just a much better fit.”
Tangel ended up leaving Jefferson County Police to be with her two young children.
“I didn’t want to leave,” Tangel said. “I was probably a horrible stay-at-home mom because I didn’t want to be at home.”
“I think they turned out OK, though,” she
After Jefferson County, Tangel spent some time in Tennessee and finally ended up in Richmond working for the EKU Campus Police.
“Fast forward 20 years and here I am doing (law enforcement) again, and I never dreamed I’d be able to do it again and I absolutely love it,” said Tangel.
Tangel is the program and community relations officer for campus police.
This position allows her to work at Stoplight Days, speak at new student orientations and be out in the community more.
Speaking with the parents is one of her favorite parts of the job, she said.
“You all have been entrusted to us by your parents, you know, to keep you safe. It’s like your home away from home and we want to make sure that you’re protected,” Tangel said.
In addition to her position as the program and community relations officer, Tangel also does everything else the other police officers do. She wants students to feel like they can contact her and to realize that police officers are not out to get anyone.
“We really want to be here to help and not to hurt. The last thing we want to do is jam somebody up,” Tangel said.
Tangel’s husband worked for Jefferson County Police and also served as the police chief in Gallatin, Tenn. Both attended the police academy when Stratton was the only building across the bypass, Tangel said.
“We have literally come full-circle. We started out at Stratton and we are literally ending at Stratton,” Tangel said.
Tangel’s husband is a leadership instructor for Eastern. She has two children who are both in college.
Tangel’s daughter will graduate from Beloit College in Wisconsin this December, and her son attends West Point.
“I consider myself to be personally and professionally blessed because I have had several jobs that most people would die to have any one of them… and I have a great family and so I feel very fortunate,” Tangel said.
Working in a job she loves is an incredible experience, Tangel said.
“The people I work with right now are absolutely the most dedicated professional people I’ve ever worked with and it is a great place to work,” she said. “I mean, they’re going to have to kick me out. They’re going to have to say ‘turn in your stuff,’ because I really love it.”
Finding a career you love takes work, but it is definitely worth it, Tangel said. The key is to major in something you love. She also said it is important to test your degree out in the real world, whether it be through co-op, internships, job-shadowing or any other kind of experience.
“If you have your degree, then you take your talents with that degree and you can go places,” said Tangel. “I probably came in at a very good time. I mean, it was 1980 when I got into law enforcement. I wasn’t the first woman. There were others that had already opened those doors. I guess I’ve just been real fortunate. I just haven’t had a problem working in what has typically been a man’s profession.”
One of Tangel’s favorite parts of the work day is laughing.
“Just today in roll call, I was just laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my face,” she said. “When I was in training, I sometimes had to beg my training officers to stop because I would go home at night after like eight hours with a stomach ache from laughing.There are funny things and, you know, it’s very healthy to laugh. Humor, sometimes it helps you get through really tough things, but sometimes things are just flat out funny.”
Tangel hopes to stay with the Eastern Kentucky University Police Department for as long as she can.
“You never say never, but I feel like this will probably be the last job I have before I retire for good,” she said. p>