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A "Major" change at Harris County Sheriff's Office: Three women promoted to top jobs

A "Major" change at Sheriff's department: 3 women get top jobs

Debra Schmidt, Penny Crianza and Sheila Jones female majors at Harris County Sheriff's Office July 2013
Debra Schmidt, from left, Penny Crianza and Sheila Jones Photo courtesy of Harris County Sheriff's Office
Sheriff Adrian Garcia and Major Debra Schmidt July 2013
Sheriff Adrian Garcia congratulates Debra Schmidt. Photo courtesy of Harris County Sheriff's Office
Debra Schmidt, Penny Crianza and Sheila Jones female majors at Harris County Sheriff's Office July 2013
Sheriff Adrian Garcia and Major Debra Schmidt July 2013

The Harris County Sheriff's Office has long been a man's world, but some women are crashing through the glass ceiling. Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia recently promoted three women to top management positions. Debra Schmidt, Penny Crianza and Shelia Jones have attained the rank of major — the first time that three women are serving together in such a high position in the sheriff's department at the same time.

Except for sheriff and chief deputy, the position of major is the highest rank title among the 4,200 employee in the sheriff's department. (The management team includes the sheriff, two deputies and 10 majors.)

 It's the first time that three women are serving together in such a high position in the sheriff's department at the same time. 

Schmidt serves over the Justice Management Bureau which includes booking and releasing, bailiffs and inmate transportation. "I am so happy to be working closely with two other qualified women like Maj. Crianza and Maj. Jones," she tells CultureMap.

Schmidt, a 30-plus year veteran in law enforcement, says she plans to use technology to aid in the processing of the inmate records. "There's always room for improvement," she said.

Crianza, who served as IT director for the past four years, heads up the Systems Intelligence and Strategic Analysis Bureau. Her new position uses computer power to produce information about crime hot spots and data analysis. The bureau was created to ensure technological support of the Sheriff’s Office. 

"I am proud to be an example that hard work and commitment to duty, regardless of industry culture, will lead to a successful and fulfilling career," Crianza says.

Crianza says she plans to implement the systems and data analysis to create effective policing in a meaningful matter that allows the department to work in ways that are smart, not hard.

Jones, the first African-American woman promoted to major, directs the Detentions Bureau, the inmate housing part of the jail operation. She oversees three detention operations, 9,300 inmates, and 1,400 employees. 

Before being promoted to major, Jones served as a lieutenant, a boot camp drill instructor, a sergeant and a commander of the Employee Representative Council (ERC). "I have always been driven and coming from the Army — another male dominated field like the one I am in — made it easier for me to transition/work in a rank structured, paramilitary environment," Jones says.

She has been working in law enforcement for over 25 years.

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