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30 years a cop, Billingslea says ‘It’s been a great ride’

Monica Billingslea staffs the front desk at Norwalk Police headquarters. (Harold F. Cobin)

At age 25, Monica Billingslea – parttime model and in a “go nowhere” position at a limousine company – needed a job that would get her out of her mother’s house “like yesterday” and allow her to buy a car without her father’s co-signature.

She found one, and a family, in law enforcement.

(Harold F. Cobin)

Billingslea retired Friday after 30 years as a Norwalk Police Officer with a ceremony in the parking lot of Police Headquarters, surrounded by well-wishing colleagues current and retired between rows of police cars flashing red and blue strobe lights.

“It went by quick. It went by very quick. It seems like just yesterday,” she said during an interview the prior afternoon.

Billingslea, 56, applied to be a Police Officer in Stratford in 1993, but Norwalk called first and sent her to the Police Academy in Meriden.

“I figured it would be secure, it would be good benefits. So, when I got the call, it wasn’t a hard decision to make.”

But along with financial confidence, the job brought an unforeseen reality.

“I was clueless. I was very naive to what went on in the real world,” she said. “I didn’t think I was sheltered because my mother wasn’t super strict. But when I got here, oh my God, I thought this stuff only went on late at night on cable TV. I didn’t know this stuff went on in real life.”

Monica Billingslea celebrates her retirement with Officer Hector Delgado, whom she attended the Police Academy with in 1993. (Harold F. Cobin)

With the advent of crack cocaine, the 90s were a period of increasing violence in urban areas, and Billingslea worked the evening shift patrolling South Norwalk.

“It was the wild west … it was the O.K. corral down here,” she said. “At the time, it didn’t dawn on me that it was dangerous. ’Cause again, I was clueless.”

Billingslea said she was in her early or mid-30s, about a decade on the job, when she got a birthday card from her mother with a message that hit her light a ton of bricks.

It read, “God, keep her safe, every night I whisper, because I love her so,” she remembered.

“So now it’s over a decade that I’ve been working 3 to 11,” she recalls thinking, “and all these nights my parents must be worried sick. That moment is when it hit me how dangerous police work can be, because it never dawned on me I might not make it out alive.”

Monica Billingslea with her daughter Brelynn. (Harold F. Cobin)

But Billingslea is acceptive to the idea her 11-year-old daughter, Brelynn, might choose a career in law enforcement.

Noting that her father opposed her decision to become a cop, Billingslea said, “If that’s what she wanted to do … once she gets to a certain age, I don’t have any control or say so, anyway. All I can do is not like it.”

Norwalk officers have a range of positions they can move into in supervision and specialized divisions, but Billingslea said she was very happy spending her entire career in patrol.

“Because once you get some years in, certain amount of seniority, it’s like you’re your own boss,” she explained. “If you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing … where you’re supposed to be … nobody’s breathing down your neck.”

And, Billingslea added, “It’s like a family here.”

If you need a day off, there’s a last-minute emergency, supervisors and your fellow officers have kids, they have families, so they understand, she said.

As for changes she’s seen in society over three decades, it’s definitely different now, she said, particularly with how juvenile crime is prosecuted.

“A lot of these juveniles are stealing cars, doing stuff … and there is almost like no repercussions,” she observed. “There was a time where if a juvenile committed a serious offense like that … they were going to be hemmed up for a while. But now it’s like, they could almost kill somebody and you send them home to their parents.”

Meantime, the public’s interaction with the police has remained about the same, she said. You kind of get what you give.

Monica Billingslea. (Harold F. Cobin)

As for entering retirement, “I’m nervous, I’m happy, I’m sad,” Billingslea said. “Not sad,” she corrected herself. “I gave it three decades; I’m leaving on a good note. I have the respect of my family, my friends, and my colleagues and my superiors. So that’s something to be proud of.”

Billingslea said in the near future she’ll look for at least parttime work to keep her occupied, perhaps again in law enforcement.

Having worked since she was 15, Billingslea said that while her daughter is in school all day, she can’t just sit around doing nothing.

Billingslea said that in her three decades as an officer, she was never tempted to pursue another line of work, but also knew how long she intended to stay on the job.

“Been a great ride,” she concluded. “I always knew very early in my career I was going to do 30 years and that was it. I’ve always known that.”

Monica Billingslea is embraced at her retirement ceremony by Carl Williams, who retired as a Norwalk Police Officer last April. (Harold F. Cobin)

Comments

5 responses to “30 years a cop, Billingslea says ‘It’s been a great ride’”

  1. Aida Scales

    🤗Hey Monica, “congrats” ! So happy for U! Never would’ve have thought U wld become a police officer! Looking bk at all the crazy, fun days we had in high school w-Scott😆Anyway, GOD BLESS🙏🏼 Wishing U & fam a very healthy & happy new year💜

  2. Deanna Hiller

    This was a refreshing story to start off the new year NoN!! I do not know Officer Billingslea, but enjoyed her comments in the interview. Thank you for your 30 years of bravery. Your service is greatly appreciated! This career path was your destiny 100%. You knew it was your calling, went with it, and never looked back! Again, THANK YOU for your dedication to keeping our Norwalk community safe!

  3. Jeffrey Tauscher

    Officer Billingslea, I had the pleasure of speaking with you a few months ago regarding the Citizen’s Police Academy – you made me smile!!
    Best of luck in your new adventure and stay safe!!

  4. Felicia Best

    Congratulations Billingslea I still hope to see around town. Good Luck On Your Next Chapter

  5. Emmanuela Despeignes

    Dear Monica,

    It’s been nice knowing you and seeing you and chatting with while making sure that our daughters get to school safely over the years. Your hard work and sacrifices as a police officer have help the Norwalk community to be a better place.. I am so so happy for you and thank God for protecting you the past 30 years. Thank you for your service and I am wishing you a fulfilling and happy retirement. Your perseverance, selflessness and dedication have been an inspiration to all . Best of luck and enjoy your retirement.

    Emma

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