As the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) commemorates the 75th anniversary of women’s integration into its ranks this year, Constable Shayon Francis stands as a wonderful example of what women can achieve in traditionally male-dominated fields. Her recent triumph at the Florida State Championship in the Lady Carry Optics Division is not just a personal victory but a milestone in challenging long standing gender stereotypes.

Born and raised in St. Thomas, among six siblings, Francis’s journey from playful childhood to becoming a ‘top shotta’ is a testament to the power of determination and grit. Her transformation began post-graduation from Seaforth High, where she was a typical teenager, neither a troublemaker nor a saint. Her enlistment in the JCF marked the start of an extraordinary journey.

“People [may think] that I was a shooter from training [school] but that wasn’t the case, I was scared to even touch a gun. But I knew it was something I had to do so I put that fear aside and understood that this was a part of the job. I just listened and followed instructions and used the motivation from my family to push forward,” Francis recalls, reflecting on her early days at the National Police College of Jamaica. Despite her fears, she persevered, driven by family support and a growing sense of duty. Witnessing her march on graduation day, her family saw the unfolding of a remarkable police officer.

Her defining moment came in November 2021, when she competed with an all-female team in the JCF SWAT Round-Up. “I started doing pistol training three weeks before the competition at the Jamaica Rifle Association (JRA) with the five other ladies. On the day of the competition, I was so nervous but we gave it our all and our efforts placed us seventh out of eighteen teams in shooting,” Francis shares. Their seventh-place finish out of eighteen teams was a significant achievement, inspiring the team to continue training.

In 2022, making history at the Pan American Shooting Championships, Francis and her team, Alpha Angels, showcased the prowess of Jamaican women on a global stage, securing third place in the Production Optics Division. Shooting, for Francis, has become more than a sport – it’s a therapeutic escape.

Her resilience shone brightly at the Florida State Championship, overcoming physical pain to clinch the first place. “The day before the match, I realised my toe was swollen, my ankle started hurting and I was unable to walk properly. At that point, I didn’t know what to do; was I going to go out and perform mediocre or was I going to push through and give it my all? I decided right there that I’m going to make sure that I win no matter what it takes,” Francis recalled.

Francis’s journey is particularly poignant as the JCF celebrates the role of women over the past 75 years. She embodies the spirit of equality and tenacity that characterizes the women of the force. Her story is not just about personal achievement; it’s about breaking barriers and redefining what’s possible.

“As a woman, sometimes you’re looked upon in a male-dominated sport but at the end of the day, the sport is for everybody. I didn’t get where I am overnight and it took a lot of work, dedication and commitment to compete with the men at their level.  So at no point, you should ever tell yourself that you can’t. If I can do it you can do it too,” Francis asserts. Her message to young girls is clear: with hard work, dedication, and commitment, any goal is achievable. Indeed, her determination to excel in her male-dominated sport is reflective of a similar determination to excel in her field of work, which has also been traditionally male-dominated.

Constable Francis’s story is a beacon of inspiration, particularly for young girls aspiring to break the mold. As the JCF honours the contributions of its female members, Francis’s achievements remind us that the journey of gender empowerment continues, with each success paving the way for future generations. As she looks ahead on her career in policing she is well aware that she stands on the shoulders of so many amazing women who have come before her. And as she looks ahead on her career in competitive shooting, she is seized with the knowledge that so many amazing women will be standing on her shoulders in years to come.