Maria Castro is the single mother of a 7-year-old son and is teaching him to dribble a soccer ball. She’s also a woman who knows how to change gears quickly. As a Milton police officer, she recently defused a potentially deadly domestic situation.
In January, Castro was sworn in as Milton’s newest officer on a force that hasn’t employed a female officer in the past decade.
With a father of Mexican descent, Castro speaks Spanish fluently.
“I grew up most of my life in Delaware. Just before high school I lived between Milton and Georgetown,” she said.
In 2001, she graduated from Sussex Central High School and set out to travel the United States, ending up in the South.
“I moved to Georgia to figure out what I wanted to do,” she said.
She has shiny black hair that hangs to the middle of her back even in a ponytail; dark glasses frame her eyes.
She said her path to the police force began almost by accident.
In Georgia, Castro interpreted for a local deputy officer. The officer suggested Castro apply for a municipal job in northern Georgia’s Habersham County, where the population is nearly 8 percent Hispanic.
She became a communications officer and then sought certification as a police officer.
In 2005, she graduated from the Northeast Georgia Police Academy in Athens and landed a job with the Cornelia, Ga. police department.
Still, with her parents living in Sussex County, Castro wanted to return home.
“I applied various times for the Milton Police Department. I recently applied in September when I came to visit my family,” she said.
After working for the Georgetown Police Department for a six-month stint, Castro was introduced to Milton Police Chief William Phillips, which eventually led to a job in Milton.
On Jan. 28, Castro, 27, was sworn in.
Since then, she has hit the ground running. In Milton, she patrols the community, but she also works with the state police and other municipalities that routinely call on her, taking advantage of her Spanish-speaking skills.
Milton Police Lt. John Cornwell said not since the 1990s has a woman served on the force. Castro, he said, is an asset.
“When we have female suspects, it’s better to have a female pat them down,” he said. Cornwell also said women are often used to carry drugs or weapons, and with Castro on the force, processing and reviewing female suspects is more efficient.
With the Cape Region’s Spanish-speaking population, Castro also provides another asset to the department.
“I’ve already translated for Troop 7 and the Harrington Police Department. “It’s something I enjoy doing. I’ve done it for a while,” she said.
Speaking of the recent Milton St. Patrick’s Parade, she said Milton residents welcomed her.
Laughing, Castro said, “Five or six people came up to me saying they think it’s great to have a female police officer in Milton.”
Castro is raising her son, Miguel Jr., on her own.
When she’s not helping local law enforcement officers, her time is spent practicing baseball and soccer with her son. She also enjoys drawing and painting.
She is SWAT certified as a basic operator, which came in handy last week as she was patrolling Milton. Near Atlantic Avenue during a routine residential patrol, Castro said she saw something in her peripheral vision. “It was a tall person falling back. I thought it was medical emergency. Then I heard someone screaming for help,” she said. It turned out the woman who was screaming for help was being attacked.
Castro pulled two women apart, handcuffing one who was attempting to strangle the other. “It was pretty intense. In the five years as a police officer, it was the first time I witnessed somebody trying to kill someone. I don’t know what would’ve happened if I wasn’t there. I felt good because I helped somebody out,” she said.