By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Sergeant Doreen Champagne’s path to becoming the city’s first female police superior officer began in her third grade classroom at Sacred Hearts Elementary School.
Back then, a visit to her school from then-officer Joseph Spero inspired Champagne to pursue a career in law enforcement, said the life-long Haverhill resident at ceremony yesterday in which she was promoted to sergeant.
“I remember asking him if a girl could be a police officer, and he said sure, we have one now,” Champagne, 37, said yesterday during the ceremony held at Mayor James Fiorentini’s office.
When Spero retired from the Police Department several years ago, Champagne said she had her junior police academy badge framed and gave it to Spero along with a letter explaining how he inspired her to become a police officer.
Spero was there yesterday to witness Champagne’s historic promotion. When it came to time present Champagne with her sergeant’s stripes, the Chief Alan DeNaro asked Spero to do the honors.
“It was an easy decision to promote Doreen,” DeNaro said. “She’s a dedicated, hard worker and is an asset to the department and the community. I’m excited to have her on our management team.”
A group that included several police officers and members of Champagne’s family crowded into the mayor’s office as City Clerk Peggy Toomey read Champagne the oath for her new position.
A 1994 graduate of St. Mary High School in Lawrence, Champagne joined the Haverhill Police Department in 2004. She is one of six female officers in the department, but is the first woman to hold a rank above private in city history, the mayor said. Champagne is also the only officer in the department with a law degree.
“I’m honored to be put in this position,” Champagne said.