Committed to the community: Meet Sumter PD's Lt. Tyshica Gayle


From an early age, Sumter Police Department's Lt. Tyshica Gayle knew she wanted to serve her community, to don a uniform that, while stylish, meant more than being part of a team. It means being at the forefront of protecting and preserving the beauty and integrity of her community, her country and all its comrades. And it all began nearly 29 years ago.

1995 - Gayle graduates from Hillcrest High School

As the oldest of five in her family, Gayle always felt like "the boss" and an "authority figure," ensuring her siblings were taken care of while their parents were at work. Growing up in Wedgefield, though Gayle had little interaction with law enforcement, she knew "I wanted to go in law enforcement" and to provide that same tender love and care to her fellow Sumterites. But things didn't go according to plan.

1996 - Gayle enters basic training for the United States Army Reserve

1997-98 - Gayle is deployed to serve in the Peace Mission between Bosnia and Hungary

1998-2002 - Gayle returns home to attend Morris College while also working retail at Lady Footlocker

At this time, Gayle was pregnant with her now 21-year-old son. Her priorities changed, meaning she once again put her hopes of a career in law enforcement on the back burner.

2004-05 - Gayle is deployed again and then returns home

"When I came back in '05, I was like, 'No more retail,'" Gayle said. It was at that time Assistant Chief Jeffery Jackson worked as a mall security officer. Aware of Gayle's desire to work in law enforcement, he asked, "What are you going to do with that degree, girl?" Right then and there, Gayle felt the opportunity to finally pursue the career she always dreamed of had come, and after encouragement from Jackson to join the force, Gayle submitted her application.

May 2005 - Gayle is hired by Sumter Police Department

A "people's person by nature," Gayle can strike up a conversation with anyone. However, her years in the department taught her a lot about patience. In the Army, you never question your leadership.

"If they gave you an order, told you to do something, you follow through with it," Gayle explained. "So now in today's society, it's not that the kids are being disrespectful, they just want to know why. That was something I had to learn and realize there wasn't any malice behind it; they just wanted to know."

Alongside invaluable life lessons, Gayle only immersed herself more in her community while on patrol. She enjoyed South Sumter, oftentimes preferring a walk through the neighborhood over a drive and afternoons spent perched on the porches of residents, sharing sweet conversations and making even sweeter memories.

"I had my elderly people I would go by and see. I had one lady that lived off Alice Drive, Ms. Rayner; on Sundays, I would go shampoo her hair. If she needed something from the grocery store, I would go do that. I had another young lady who lives on South Main Street -- Ms. Brown --I would go by and check on her, so I really built a lot of rapport with the people in the community."

"We're still a full-service police department, and we still do a lot of community service, but it was just different back then," Gayle shared. "I would just want the public to know that we're human, and we have feelings, too. We have a job to do, and they've entrusted us to do that job."

2017 - Gayle retires from United States Army Reserve

Moving up the ranks to sergeant, Gayle couldn't have done it without the women who inspired her. Joining the force under the leadership of former Police Chief Patty Patterson and being trained by Lt. Cerdetrica Furman -- both Black women, both equally inspiring -- Gayle "felt good about her chances of being an effective leader, when the time was right."

"She is willing to learn, and she has no problem telling you how she feels," Furman commented about Gayle's qualities. Though Gayle took some shaping, Furman assured that Gayle was destined for greatness since she walked through those doors.

Present - Gayle serves as recruiter for police department for sworn and non-sworn positions

And now, she is responsible for shaping the next generation of officers as lieutenant in the Administrative Services Division. Recruiting dispatch personnel, school crossing guards, officers and so on for nearly 11 years has been Gayle's greatest joy.

"From beginning to end, my greatest joy is telling someone, 'Hey, you've been selected to proceed to the next step in the process,'" she said. "That gives me the greatest joy because people that did not think that they could achieve it or didn't have a chance, they were able to."

The majority of the applicants, especially those who are African American, Gayle said, grow up fearing law enforcement - as people and as a profession. Over time, that perception hinders them from seeking law enforcement when they're in trouble or looking for a way to serve their community. To that, Gayle has a few choice words.

"Don't be afraid. If this is what you want to do, pursue it," she encouraged. "But you've got to have a passion for it."