PORT ST. LUCIE PEOPLE
The POLICE OFFICER
While Sylvia Harris has earned many awards and accolades during her nearly 30 years of service with the Port St. Lucie Police Department, she is most
proud of her time as a school resource officer.
When Sylvia Harris was looking for a possible career
change in the early 1990s, she never expected to be
so drawn to law enforcement. Initially, Harris was
looking to work at the jail or detention center as a correctional
officer. But after some research, she figured it was not for her.
“I went on a ride-along with an officer named Carl Toppin, a
black officer with PSLPD,” Harris said. “Right away I knew, ‘I
could do this, and I will do this.’ ”
After that initial ride-along, Harris completed all of the
required schooling, paperwork and tests in order to be hired
by the Port St. Lucie Police Department. And, in 1991, she
became the department’s first African American female officer.
“It was definitely not a walk in the park at the beginning;
people were not used to having a black woman work with
them as an officer,” Harris said. “Many of those officers have
become some of my best friends, more like family, but in the
beginning, I felt I had to try and fit a mold in order to fit in.”
ANTHONY INSWASTY PHOTOS
Harris said she has always been the type of person to lay
everything on the table. She holds no secrets and has always
let her personality glow brightly. But, she explained, at that
time there were very few black officers, let alone one who
was also female.
“I’ve never been a timid person, but I also felt like I needed
to get my foot in the door and test the waters before I felt
100% comfortable,” Harris said.
As time went on, the department and the city began to feel
like home, according to Harris.
“I made it clear that I was here to stay and was going to
fight for what I believed in,” she said.
In the beginning, Harris was assigned to street patrol
in District 3 which included the area west of the Turnpike
Bridge at Bayshore Boulevard and around Rosser, Darwin
and Becker roads. During that time, Harris said she was
called out to domestics, traffic, drug, neighborhood distur-
28 Port St. Lucie Magazine
BY RACHEL INSWASTY