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SHIRLEY — Alfreda Cromwell may be the town’s only full-time female officer, but if her credentials are any indication, she’ll hold her own with her male counterparts.

For eight years Cromwell has been a sergeant with the United States Marine Corps reserve, said police Chief Paul Thibodeau, who served as the chairman of the committee that selected her from a pool of 25 applicants.

Besides her military experience — she’s performed administrative duties with the 1st Battalion 25th Marines headquartered at Devens. Cromwell has a black belt in Kempo, Thibodeau said, “so one doesn’t want to cross her.”

But I also have people skills, Cromwell said during an interview on Jan. 25. For nearly six years, she served as the program director at the Cambridge Community Center, which provides after-school and enrichment programs for children and families.

Cromwell was sponsored by MIT police to attend the Lowell Police Academy, from which she graduated. She is in the midst of working on a degree in criminal justice at University of Massachusetts Boston, she said.

The academy was extremely challenging, said Cromwell. The six-month program emphasizes physical fitness, structure, leadership and discipline among other things.

“Once I joined the academy, it kind of helped solidify my reasons for being a police officer,” said Cromwell, whose mother was an auxiliary officer in Cambridge for eight years.

“She was a role model for me,” she said.

Police officers are leaders, teachers, mediators, enforcers and protectors, she said, which “are all of the things I want to be to the community.”

Cromwell, who lives in Cambridge, also has two daughters, ages nine and 10, whom she adopted.

“I had a full plate, but I did it all,” said Cromwell.

Hoping to move closer to the town, she said she chose to apply for the job in Shirley after doing a little research about the community.

The appeal for her was the town’s interactive setting, she said.

Community is important to Cromwell, who said she believes in “doing things you should do, not because you have to do them.”

The Board of Selectmen appointed Cromwell on Jan. 22 with the chief’s recommendation, said Thibodeau. An interview committee of several town officials and residents screened the applicants, whittling the list down to four candidates to be interviewed, he explained.

“It’s very important, especially in a small town, to make sure you have the person with the right temperament, the right training and who’s going to do the best for the town,” said Thibodeau.

On the committee with Thibodeau are Selectman Charles Shultz Jr., town administrator Kyle Keady, Finance Committee Vice Chairman Ellen Doiron, the Rev. Edmund Desrosier of St. Anthony’s Parish, police Lt. Gregory Massak and resident James Thibault. Committee members are appointed by the selectmen each year, according to Thibodeau.

“Collectively drawn from the wisdom of a committee, you’re more apt to choose the right candidate,” said Thibodeau.

Cromwell replaces officer Timothy Schaeffer, who resigned several months ago to take a position in Littleton, he said.

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