Tawanna Simms from St. Louis started boxing when she was a teenager. From the ring in recreational center, she stepped directly into St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department as a law enforcer.
When she was 12, Tawanna imagined herself as a cheerleader.
Her single mother was raising 5 children in the Clinton-Peabody public housing complex. She could not afford to pay for the eldest daughter’s cheerleading classes.
So instead Tawanna started to visit boxing trainings in 12th and Park Recreation Center, in a few steps from home. The classes were free.
It was not long before Tawanna’s fierce fighting style caught the attention of Kenny Loehr, coach and local boxing legend.
His mentee, the then-St. Louis police Maj. Jerry Leyshock, was also impressed with Simms’ skills.
Soon the girl was sparring with female officers, who were training for the traditional Budweiser’s Guns ’N Hoses fundraising event.
However, Tawanna learned something more than just hooks and jabs from these cops. The girl would stealthily listen to their stories from the streets of her city.
With all the duties and bothers, the young officer did not quit boxing.
They helped people, chased criminals and would sacrifice their lives to keep her neighborhood safe.
“It made me want to be part of that, too,” Simms told St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Tawanna told Leyshock she wanted to be a cop.
The officer promised to help her through the routine and kept his word. In 2012, Simms graduated from Cleveland Jr. Naval Academy. Four years later, she got the police academy diploma.
Officer Simms is now patrolling the Third District in St. Louis. This is where she grew up and first saw officer Leyshock on duty.
“She certainly saw a lot of failure out there,” Leyshock confessed. “But she was transfixed on becoming a police officer. And she never wavered. Now she’s policing in the community where she grew up, and we need that.”
Now Tawanna is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminology of Webster University. With all the duties and bothers, the officer did not quit boxing.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, she fought with paramedic Danielle Kamm during 31st Budweiser’s Guns ’N Hoses matches.
Officer Simms won.