“If every boss was Paula Reid, the Secret Service would never have a problem,” the former agent said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about a former colleague. “It would be a lot more boring, but never a problem.”
Reid has never married. She describes herself as very close to her siblings, including her twin sister, and her family, most of whom still live in the Maryland suburbs.
Tall and lean, Reid is regularly seen at the gym at 5:30 in the morning and at her desk by 7 a.m. She is always serious when on the job, the former agent said.
After growing up in Calvert County, Reid graduated from the University of Maryland. She joined the Secret Service at age 25 after visiting an NAACP job fair that sought to encourage minority applicants for law enforcement jobs.
According to a promotional interview years later that Reid granted to help recruit more female agents, she studied criminal justice in college and was debating whether to go to law school or become an investigator when she chose the service.
“I can’t imagine not being in law enforcement,” she said then, according to the interview, published in an online newsletter, Women for Hire.
Reid’s time in the agency has not been rosy throughout.
Ten years after entering the service at the bottom rung, she joined as a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit that claimed the agency engaged in racial discrimination against African American personnel. She provided a declaration giving examples of ways black agents were relegated to lesser assignments. In the broader suit, some of the plaintiffs contended that senior managers had often used racial epithets to describe criminal suspects but were not reprimanded for their comments.
She eventually withdrew from the case, which continues but has since dwindled to a smaller number of plaintiffs. Still, as a black woman, Reid stood out in a mostly white-male agency.
“The general public is intrigued to see a black female in my position,” she said in the Women for Hire interview. “They always need to confirm that I really am a special agent. I enjoy being a role model for women and minorities.”
In a 1997 USA Today interview about the Secret Service’s desire to recruit more female agents, Reid was quoted as saying that when she and male agents were working together on an assignment, their managers would usually ignore her in favor of her male counterparts.
Until the perception of agents as big, bulky men changes, Reid said at the time, women have to “learn not to take it personally.”