Goose Creek's first new police chief in three decades has broken barriers throughout her career. Her new post is no different. 

After a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement, L.J. Roscoe was sworn into her new role on Jan. 18, becoming the first woman to lead a law enforcement agency in Charleston, Dorchester or Berkeley counties. She is also the only openly LGBTQ chief in the tri-county.

Roscoe, who came to Goose Creek from the Dekalb County Sheriff's Office in Georgia, joins the small but growing ranks of female police chiefs in South Carolina. 

Despite the historic nature of her tenure, the new chief says her identity as an officer comes first.

"I believe this is more than just a career," Roscoe said. "This is a calling. Being a police chief has been a goal of mine from very early on."

swearing in.jpg

Goose Creek Mayor Greg Habib swears in new Goose Creek Police Chief L.J. Roscoe alongside her son, Kade Roscoe, and her wife, Misty Roscoe, holding the Bible at Goose Creek City Hall on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

According to research conducted by the S.C. Police Chiefs Association, there are currently about 12 female chiefs in the state. Most lead small departments, with the exception of Roscoe and Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock.  

Departments in South Carolina have previously lagged behind those in other states in terms of female leadership, but strides have been made in recent years. 

The S.C. Highway Patrol promoted its first female captain in 2017. The following year, the first woman was appointed to lead the agency's Lowcountry troop.

S.C. Highway Patrol promotes first female captain, will oversee training unit

Portland, Ore., claims to have sworn in the first female officer in the country, Lola Baldwin, in 1908. The Rose City also made history when Penny Harrington became the first woman to lead a metropolitan police department as chief in 1985. 

Until the latter part of the 20th century, female officers in many cases were limited in their duties.

Roscoe, who started her career working in the DeKalb County Jail, was the first to push through at least a few barriers in her former agency.

"When you tell her that's not the way it is, she will identify a new way for things to be," Goose Creek Mayor Greg Habib said during her swearing in. "Women don't work the third shift in DeKalb County. They do now. She was the first to be assigned to the (overnight) shift. Women don't ride motorcycles in DeKalb County. They do now."

For DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey Mann, who attended the ceremony in Goose Creek, his former employee's sense of calling is part of what makes her a great leader. 

"One thing about Chief Roscoe is she's going to push hard," Mann said. "She's going to work hard and she's done that every step of her career. She's gone through 11 ranks in the Sheriff's Office. I don't know of anyone else that has done that, or very few."

Women blazed trails in police work

Chase Glenn, executive director of the Charleston-based LGBTQ advocacy organization Alliance For Full Acceptance, said he was excited to hear that an openly lesbian chief was hired in the area.

"In the not so distant past, identifying as LGBTQ would have disqualified you from the running," Glenn said. "Representation matters. It's not that we expect special treatment, (but) it does mean that is someone we can look up to."

Roscoe's first official day on the job was Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Among her first challenges on the job will be maximizing the efficiency of a department that has not added officers at a sufficient enough rate to match Goose Creek's population growth since 2008, the mayor said. 

From 2010 to 2017, the last year available, the city's population grew by 17 percent, from 35,938 people to 42,619, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Now the eighth-largest city in South Carolina, Goose Creek is battling issues with congestion, Habib said. From 2012 to 2016, it saw a 46 percent increase in traffic collisions.

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Goose Creek Mayor Greg Habib introduces new Goose Creek Police Chief L.J. Roscoe at City Hall on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

The mayor said he worked with council members to budget for two additional officers in the current fiscal year and hopes to add more officers in the next budgeting process.

While city officials work to bring staffing levels up, Habib said he can count on Roscoe to manage the resources at hand so that officers are placed where they are needed most — whether that's responding to a 911 call or conducting traffic enforcement. 

As she settles into her new position, Roscoe says she's happy to be back in her home state and closer to her parents, who live in Florence. She, her wife Misty and their son plan to live in Goose Creek and be a part of the community. 

Born in Germany and raised in Greenville, Roscoe's family moved to Florence in 1983. She graduated from West Florence High School in 1987 and moved to Georgia shortly after.

About two years later, when she was 20, Roscoe said she attended an event that changed her life and set her on the path to serve — a police officer's funeral in the Upstate.

After seeing the camaraderie shared by the officers who were there, she knew she wanted those strong bonds in her life. 

"I pride myself on being a cops' cop," Roscoe said.

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Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.