In 1984, Sylvia Bailey (formerly with Albemarle County Police and the regional coordinator of the IAWP for Virginia) organized a regional seminar in Charlottesville, VA in hopes of organizing an association. Fifteen people attended the seminar.
In the fall of 1987 a group of determined women led by Marie Chiarizia (Virginia Beach Police) organized a meeting to solicit interest in an organization for female officers in the region. In 1988, with the help of Sandi Baum (Virginia Beach Police), Shirley O'Toole and Kay Lewis (Chesapeake Police), Polly Carter (Norfolk Police) and Sharon Kelly (FBI) the dream became reality.
The first conference was held in Virginia Beach under the name of the IAWP Region 3 and was hosted by Virginia Beach Police and Chesapeake Police Departments. The 1987 conference theme was "Officer Survival". Much to their surprise 130 people attended the first conference!
The name initially chosen for the organization was "The Mid-Atlantic Association of Women Police". Elections were held and the first Official Board of Directors was established. The First Board of Directors consisted of President Marie Chiarizia (Virginia Beach Police), Vice President Fannie Johnson-Featherstone Metropolitan Police, Washington, DC), Treasurer Sharon Kelly (FBI), and Secretary Sylvia Bailey (Albemarle County Police).
The mission of the Organization was to foster professional and personal relationships with women in the Mid-Atlantic region and provide up-to-date training and promote law enforcement as a profession. A newsletter was written and a membership drive was announced. At this point, the Organization consisted of 25 members.
The Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC hosted the 2nd Annual Conference in 1988. The conference theme was "Broadening Our Horizons". Fannie Johnson-Featherstone was responsible for designing the Organization's logo and the membership adopted it at this conference. The name of the organization was changed to "Mid-Atlantic Association of Women in Law Enforcement" so that it would be more inviting to all women in the many fields of law enforcement, not just police officers. The By-Laws were officially adopted.
In the Summer of 1989, MAAWLE was incorporated as a non-profit organization. In the Fall of 1989, President Chiarizia applied for and received affiliation with the IAWP. Committees for the organization were formed in this year. Rita Crowley made the organization's first flag as a decoration for the hospitality room. The flag was adopted and voted on by the membership as the official flag of MAAWLE. This flag was later designed professionally and the old flag was retired. This year, 1989, was also the when the first award for "Officer of the Year" was presented.
Charging ahead, in 1998, the 12th Annual Training Conference hosted over 200 attendees.
To date, MAAWLE has proven to be an integral part in the promotion, education, networking, and overall personal and professional advancement of women in law enforcement. In 2018, the Organization boasts a membership of over 350 individuals and continues the tradition presenting an Annual Training Conference each Spring, offering members the opportunity to develop leadership skills, professional development, contemporary training, and networking. Additionally, the organization provides educational scholarships to advance the knowledge, skills, and abilities of law enforcement officers in the Mid-Atlantic region.
MAAWLE is a non-profit organization, and all donations are tax deductible.