Sheriff Doug Vantlin declared Tuesday “kind of a big day,” as the county witnessed the swearing-in of its first female merited patrol deputy.
Deputy Johanna Carney, who was sworn in by Circuit Court Judge Sherry Gregg-Gilmore, says she’s both surprised and proud to be the first woman to earn the distinction.
“Our sheriff’s department has been around since 1790, so to just now have the first female merited deputy is surprising, but I understand why,” she said. “If you haven’t had qualified applicants, then you can’t hire, but it’s still surprising to me that it’s the first time.”
A qualified applicant must make her way through a rigorous process that includes passing a physical test matching the exit standards of the Indiana Police Academy, an aptitude test, and a psychological evaluation.
Vantlin emphasized that Carney was selected “not because she’s a female.”
“She was near the top of the pool of applicants,” he said. “She just happens to be a female.”
Though Carney acknowledges that the sheriff’s department has long been a male-dominated domain, she said that everyone has been incredibly supportive of her.
“As soon as they found out I was applying, everybody was like, ‘We’re rooting for you,’” she said with a smile.
Of her accomplishment, Carney says it’s very meaningful and she’s proud, but adds, “I’m proud of the whole department actually.”
Carney, who has lived in Knox County for six years, said working in law enforcement was not a lifelong dream of hers.
She initially took a job with community corrections because she was looking for better benefits.
“And I loved it,” Carney said.
That initial career change in 2018 led her in another new direction working as a jailer for the past year, which motivated her to push herself even further.
“I thought, I’d really like to get out on the road, on patrol,” she said.
In her roles at work release and the jail, Carney felt something click.
“It kind of felt like I found my calling,” she said, “one I didn’t even know I had.”