Summer Benton, an Atlanta Police Department homicide detective featured on TLC's new show 'Women of Homicide," can rock a fedora as if she were part of "The Untouchables."
"We're known as the hat squad," she said on the show. "You have to solve a homicide before you can get a hat."
Over five years in homicide, Benton has solved 28 cases and now owns plenty of cool hats.
TLC, which chases female viewers, has had success with its "Police Women" series the past five years, which focuses on crimes in progress. "Women of Homicide" takes a deeper look into specific murders and how detectives go about solving them.
"Our network is about compelling characters," said Cindy Kain, director of production at TLC. "These women form amazing relationships with their partners, with the forensics team."
Benton is one of five women out of 18 in the homicide department and one of three detectives on the show. The other two are based in Cincinnati. Benton appears in five of the first season's eight episodes with her debut Wednesday at 9 p.m.
Shot in late 2012, she solves a case involving a man in Atlanta found dead on his front lawn, a bullet in his head. At first, she has no clear motive, no suspect, no gun. But on camera, she shows patience and determination with minimal drama as she pursues leads and digs for evidence.
Kevin Ott, Benton's partner, dubbed Benton on the show a "chihuahua on crack rock. She just keeps going. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with her. Sometimes, she's gets on my last dang nerve but she gets the job done."
Major Keith Meadows, who headed the homicide department when TLC approached the department, said A&E's "The First 48," which focuses on the early hours of a murder investigation, also wanted to film in Atlanta. But he said he found "Women of Homicide" more interesting "mainly because I know the difficult time some women have in law enforcement. I thought it would be a good idea to tell that story. We've come a long way over the years. And Summer's story is compelling."
Meadows calls her a "Type A personality. Sometimes in a male-dominated field, that doesn't always go over well. When I was brought over to homicide, I heard some grumbling about her presence. But she's done a remarkable job in that unit."
He said her dogged attitude wouldn't be considered an issue if she were a man. "Some saw her as showing off but she simply works hard and learns. She asks questions. You can distinguish between someone showing off and someone who wants to learn. She takes time to learn her craft. That's Summer so far."
At least in the first episode, gender issues are not a factor at all. She simply does her job.
Growing up, Benton said she wasn't sure if she could be a cop given the fact she was not a man. When her father Steve Benton was with the APD from 1971 to 1986, women were not treated as well as guys on the force, she said. But in her 20s, he had her sit down with a female major in the department who inspired her to apply. "I work very well with guys and girls," she said. "I couldn't ask for a better group of people."
For Benton, being a homicide detective is all about justice for those directly affected by the murders. She felt this "Women of Homicide" format would enable her to provide a fuller picture of how investigations work. "On the news, people may see 30 seconds or a minute. They don't get to see what the victims and families have to go through, the grief process. When we complete an investigation and catch somebody, it's at least a moment of peace for the family."
"Women of Homicide," 9 p.m. Wednesdays, TLC