Meet the ‘Steely’ Woman Who Booted 11 Secret Service Agents from Colombia

When the Cartagena prostitution scandal broke, veteran agent Paula Reid picked up the pieces

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Doug Mills / AP

Paula Reid, at right, walks in a motorcade alongside President George W. Bush's limousine shortly after his inauguration on January 20, 2001.

Leave it to a woman to keep the boys in line. According to the Washington Post, a top female member of the Secret Service was responsible for booting 11 agents out of Colombia after they allegedly solicited prostitutes while preparing for the President’s arrival in Cartagena.

Despite supervisor Paula Reid’s best efforts to contain the situation, the sex scandal that splashed across front pages in the U.S. completely overshadowed the agents’ mission at the Summit of the Americas. But while details of the scandal from bar to brothel to bedroom have been widely reported, Reid’s actions to stop the agents’ misdeeds have flown largely under the radar.

The Post profile describes Reid as a 46-year-old black woman, tall and lean, with a reputation for being “exacting” and “steely.” The 21-year veteran of the Secret Service was recently promoted to head of the agency’s Miami bureau, where she oversees the 150 agents that work throughout South America.

(LIST: Who’s Who in the Colombia Secret Service Prostitution Scandal)

Reid, who was staying at a different hotel in Cartagena at the time of the incident, took swift action to ensure that the agents involved would no longer be responsible for the President’s security during the trip. In accordance with protocol, she contacted Secret Service director Mark Sullivan to ask for permission to remove the agents. The Post notes that while Sullivan made the ultimate decision to send the agents home, it was Reid’s work ethic and focus that ensured the situation was handled appropriately.

“If every boss was Paula Reid, the Secret Service would never have a problem,” one former agent told the Post. Reid is believed to be the highest-ranking black woman in the Secret Service, an agency that has long been dominated by white men. An indefatigable worker, she’s reportedly at her desk by 7 a.m. each day.

(MORE: When Bureaucrats Behave Badly, Politicians Sense an Opportunity)

Starting out at the lower rungs of the Secret Service more than two decades ago, Reid has earned a number of prestigious promotions in both Washington, D.C., and Miami. But those honors have come tinged with disappointment. Ten years ago, she took part in a class-action lawsuit against the agency, alleging it engaged in racial discrimination against African-American staffers. (She is no longer part of the ongoing suit.)

Speaking about the incident on ABC’s This Week, Maine Senator Susan Collins commended Reid for acting “decisively” while questioning, “I can’t help but wonder if there’d been more women as part of that detail if this ever would have happened.” Director Sullivan noted that only 11% of the Secret Service is female.

MORE: Beyond the Secret Service Scandal: Why the Americas Summits Matter

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