Greenville County Sheriff's Office

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Capt. Cheryl Cromartie knew she wanted to be a police officer when she was nine years old. She was driving with her grandmother and saw something she'd never seen before -- a black female cop.

She joined the Greenville County Sheriff's Office 27 years ago and still did not see many colleagues who looked like her. She decided to be a game-changer for African-American women who might want to consider police work.

She succeeded, all the way up to a leadership position -- the first black woman in the department to achieve every new rung on the ladder.

And now she's concerned that without some reform in the wake of so many racially charged incidents involving police officers, young black men and women will not want to enter law enforcement when the community most needs them to.

Below is a conversation with Capt. Cromartie, who describes in complex, anguished detail what it's like to be torn by two sides that always seem to be at odds with each other.