Photo by Todd Cooper

Sash, Crown and Cuffs

Taisyn Crutchfield is the current Miss Eugene USA and aspiring pageant winner. She’s also a California police officer who’s paid for her principled stands.

Taisyn Crutchfield says she wanted to be a police officer from the time she was 10. Feeling a need to protect her community after the kidnapping and murder of a 17-year old girl in 2010, she says, “I want to be an officer because I want to be able to bring this family justice.”

Her mom saw another opportunity for her when she was 10: To help her daughter develop her interviewing and public speaking skills, she entered Crutchfield in the National American Miss contest. 

Today, Crutchfield, a 28-year-old Black woman, has brought those pursuits together as a California police officer who’s vying for the Miss Oregon USA title on May 4. A one-time star sprinter, Crutchfield says she believes that she can inspire girls and young women everywhere. 

“I can put on a badge and I can be a superhero out there,” Crutchfield says. “Or I can put on a crown and reach out to those little girls who think they can’t and think they’re not enough.”

Crutchfield also keeps an apartment in Eugene, where she works as a private trainer and coach. Thanks to the quirks of pageant rules, that makes her eligible for the Miss Oregon USA pageant. In 2023, she filed an online application and pageant officials bestowed her with the Miss Eugene USA title. The winner of the state competition goes on to compete for the Miss USA title. 

Crutchfield earned bachelor of science and master’s degrees in criminology at the University of California, Irvine, where she shared an NCAA 4x100m relay dash title in 2016 and was named to the Big West All American Team in 2020. In 2021, she earned her master’s in criminology from UCI and reached her dream, becoming a sworn officer in the Pasadena Police Department. 

She says that the death of George Floyd, who was murdered when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck in 2020, intensified her sense of mission. “When George Floyd happened, it kind of took a massive turn in the relationship in the bond with the community,” she says. “With joining law enforcement, I knew that it’s time to bridge the gap.” 

As a rookie cop, Crutchfield says, she saw her role as helping the marginalized and forgotten members of the community. “I treat a homeless person like I treat the chief of police,” Crutchfield says. 

She says her idealism led her to break the code of silence maintained by police officers. 

In January 2023, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies in Altadena, a neighboring community to Pasadena, shot and killed Charles Towns, who had stabbed several people with a pair of scissors during a mental health crisis. A month later, two of Towns’ sons, angry about their father’s death, confronted Pasadena police officers. 

During the confrontation, Crutchfield attempted to intervene and calm a fellow officer, who in turn pushed her away, according to claims filed by Crutchfield’s attorney, Bradley Gage, and reported on by KCAL CBS news. The Pasadena police put Crutchfield on six months’ administrative leave. The claim filed against the Pasadena Police Department alleges racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation for her actions. 

During the paid leave, Crutchfield says, “I was suffering in silence.” Feeling lost but not defeated, Crutchfield — who had already moved to Eugene that January — focused on her coaching career, specializing with Olympic hopeful sprinters and other athletes. Oregon Ducks wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr. is a client. 

Crutchfield said Eugene is a place for her to catch her breath and get away from Los Angeles’ “go go go” attitude. She declined to comment further on the status of her lawsuit against the city.

Her time away from the police force also helped her refocus her commitment to law enforcement. “It woke me up to, like girl, do you know what type of officer you are like?” Crutchfield says. “These people need you, These kids need you out here.”

Crutchfield is pursuing her third pageant title as an adult. She sought the Miss California USA crown in 2016 representing her hometown as Miss Pasadena, while still attending UCI. She also vied for the title of Miss California Volunteer as Miss Riverside Volunteer in 2023

“Growing up, I didn’t see pageants as just about beauty; I saw them as an opportunity to build confidence and learn important life skills,” Crutchfield says. “Now as a woman advocating for other women, I know the platform I’m given can help share important messages.

“Too often, minorities don’t see themselves represented in leadership,” Crutchfield says. “I want to show young girls they can achieve anything, even in spaces not designed for them.”

Taisyn Crutchfield will compete as Miss Eugene in the annual Miss Oregon 2024 pageant on May 4, at the Elsinore Theatre in Salem.