Asian women in NYPD ranks offer hope for future enrollment

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The NYPD is one of the most diverse departments in the nation, yet Asian women are one group they have struggled to recruit.

Of the roughly 36,000 members, just 246 are Asian American women -- that's 0.7% of the department.

Sonia Barua, a five-year NYPD officer, is a housing cop in Brooklyn, but this wasn't where she thought life would take her.

For seven years -- before the NYPD -- she was a stay-at-home-mom.

In her home country of Bangladesh, being a cop wasn't exactly a good thing.

"I grew up in a small community," Barua said. "They're scared to call the cops."

But then one day, the Queens mom saw officers help her neighbor with a noise complaint, and that's when she found her calling.

"Here, they call officers for everything," Barua said. "If they're in trouble, they call officers for help."

For Captain Chungyoon Huh, the highest-ranking Asian American woman in the NYPD, it was a simple smile that drew her in.

"When I was still in Korea -- when I was still in high school -- my mother and I came to New York as a tourist," Huh said. "One night, we got lost and we were panicked and two police officers came to us...very funny people. We never saw police officers being that funny. In Korea, they are very serious."

These women are some of the unexpected faces of today's NYPD.

"I didn't always want to be a cop," retired Detective Agnes Chan said.

Chan was the first Asian American female police officer. In her 20 years, she tackled organized crime in Chinatown.

She helped free undocumented immigrants who were kidnapped by gangs. But like many of these women, before she could blaze trails, she had to first overcome cultural expectations.

"I didn't tell my parents until the night before I got sworn in," Chan said. "Because I was afraid they were going to disown me."
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CeFaan Kim has a closer look at Asian-American women in the NYPD.

Police Officer Megan Mohammed said her mom wanted her to be a teacher or nurse.

"My mom was not okay with me being a cop," Mohammed said.

Other female officers could relate to parents not agreeing with their decisions to become a cop.

"They were like, 'Are you sure?'" Officer Jenny Chan said.

Officer Soojin Kim went from state auditor to NYPD recruiter.

Like all of these women, they wanted to be a protector and build bridges between cops and their communities.

Along the way, they accomplished much more.

"I got respect from my family first," Barua said. "I will say that I got it from my friends, family and my small community."

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