Six Black women in North Carolina have smashed the glass ceiling in law enforcement by becoming police chief of their respective departments, the highest number of such individuals to hold those positions in the state’s history, according to Raleigh, N.C. NBC affiliate WRAL-TV.

Female police chiefs in North Carolina. (Top left clockwise) Cassandra Deck-Brown of the Raleigh Police Department; Gina Hawkins of Fayetteville Police Department; Cerelyn C.J. Davis of the Durham Police Department; Patrice Andrews of the Morrisville Police Department; Catrina Thompson of the Winston-Salem Police Department; and, Bernette Morris leads Morehead City Police Department. (Courtesy photos)

The six chiefs include Cassandra Deck-Brown of the Raleigh Police Department; Cerelyn C.J. Davis of the Durham Police Department; Patrice Andrews of the Morrisville Police Department; Gina Hawkins of Fayetteville Police Department, Catrina Thompson of the Winston-Salem Police Department and Bernette Morris leads Morehead City Police Department.

In an interview with the television station last week, four of the police chiefs discussed the difficulties they face as Black women in a mostly male-dominated field. In 2008, women comprised just 15.2 percent of law enforcement officials in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

“We’ve broken a glass ceiling,” Deck-Brown told WRAL. “So, becoming chief, the honor is knowing that somebody else has that opportunity to get there.”

From the day they began their police academy training, the women said they knew they would have to work twice as hard to prove themselves to the men. Deck-Brown told the station that there were only four women in her class at the Raleigh Police Department—a record at the time.  Davis, Hawkins and Andrews said they are among just a few women in their respective police departments.

“There was a proving ground,” Andrews said. “It wasn’t because I was a Black woman. It was because I was a woman, and I think to see, ‘What is she really made of?’”

The chiefs’ ascension comes at a time of heightened tensions between Black communities and the men and women in blue.

The women told the station that a combination of compassion, empathy and quick thinking helped them reach new heights at their respective departments. Those qualities, they said, represent a shift in how police sometimes deal with their communities, they told WRAL.

“This is a paradigm shift in policing,” Deck-Brown said. “This is what 21st century (policing) looks like. All we need is the opportunity. Some do it better than others, but we need the opportunity.”