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Pelham's first female officer welcomes challenge

By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online. By SUSAN McMAHON Sun Staff

PELHAM -- When Anne Perriello puts on her uniform, she's a police officer, plain and simple.

But, as the first female officer in the Pelham Police Department, she realizes she has unique challenges to overcome.

That's just fine with her.

"It makes it even more challenging," she said. "Every officer has to prove themselves, and I'll have a little more pressure. I'll respond to pressure more than a laid-back environment."

Perriello was sworn in as an officer in a ceremony Tuesday afternoon. In her first week on the job, she's been qualified on her firearm, filled in all the paperwork and begun her field training. The learning curve is steep, but Perriello is excited about her new career.

"It's a lot to learn so far," she said. "It's definitely exciting because of the whole learning process. There are so many different avenues you can take."

In addition to her policing duties, Perriello also serves as field hockey coach for the University of Massachusetts Lowell team. Her experience as a coach made her an appealing prospect to Chief Evan Haglund, who plans to place her in some aspect of community policing.

"She's a highly motivated individual, dedicated to the community, been involved with coaching through ULowell," he said. "She has that dedication toward the youth that we look for."

In addition to her coaching credits, Perriello also has a master's degree in criminal justice from UMass Lowell and is going for her doctorate in forensic science.

"Her credentials are just amazing," Haglund said.

Growing up in Chelmsford around friends with police officer parents -- including Chelmsford Chief Raymond McCusker, whom she cites as a role model -- inspired her to join the force. The decision was one supported by her parents and two older siblings, none of whom are involved in law enforcement.

"I'm not really nervous. I don't tend to worry about things that might happen," said her mother, Diana Perriello. "This is what she's chosen, so you naturally hope for the best."

After graduating from Chelmsford High, where Perriello played varsity field hockey and softball, she attended UMass Lowell and received a bachelor's degree. While at college, she played field hockey, was elected team captain her junior and senior years, and was named a Division II second-team All-American.

Since her 1999 graduation, Perriello has been coaching field hockey at the university, but she decided to put her criminal justice degree to good use with the addition of a policing job.

The 23-year-old Dracut resident saw Pelham as a good place to start a career.

And the community policing aspect of her new job clinched it.

"I always wanted to be in contact with people, plus have a job that holds you to a high level of integrity," she said. "Put them together and that's policing."

And, with about a week of experience under her belt, Perriello is ready to prove to her fellow officers that she's the right woman for the job.

"I want the other officers to feel I'll do just as good a job as anyone else," she said.