When the call came in that a prostitute had created a disturbance in a Cartagena hotel after a Secret Service agent refused to pay her, Paula Reid, recently promoted to the head of the Miami office and in Colombia preparing for the Presiden't arrival, had to deal with what would quickly become one of the Secret Service's biggest public scandals. According to the Washington Post's recent profile of Reid, she was more than up for the task.
Reid, who is one of the few female African American employees in an organization that is only 11 percent female, acted decisively when details of the scandal's scope were still emerging. She rounded up all of the 11 agents involved and ordered them the gtfo of Colombia before they further embarrassed the United States. Risking internal backlash for ruining the offending agents' careers and publicly shaming an organization that prides itself on, well, secrecy, Reid obtained Secret Service director Mark Sullivan's endorsement before seeing the initial band-aid tearing stages of the investigation through.
The Post's profile reveals a woman whose resolve and threshold for misogyny must have each been pretty large — she has spent 21 years rising through the ranks of an organization that has often lionized its own macho culture, though not without the occasional hiccup. A decade into her time with the Secret Service, Reid became a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit claiming that the agency discriminated against African American employees (Reid has since withdrawn from the suit, which continues today).
Though Reid's explanation of the current scandal is pretty dry and, dare we say, scripted, she has offered some insight into her relatively unique position as a woman in a position of power at a male-dominated organization. "The general public is intrigued to see a black female in my position," said Reid in an interview with Women for Hire. "They always need to confirm that I really am a special agent. I enjoy being a role model for women and minorities." In 1997, Reid also told USA Today about how the Secret Service might have trouble recruiting more female agents because, for instance, if she and male colleagues were working together on an assignment, she could be pretty certain that her supervisors would ignore her insights in favor of those of her penis-toting counterparts. At least for now, Reid seems to have her colleagues and superiors at perfect schoolboy attention as she helps prune an organization of those agents that would treat a serious assignment in a foreign country like a grand sex-tour of Latin America.
Meet The Woman Who Handled The Secret Service [Atlantic Wire]