My name is Erica Danielle and I have been with the Austin Police Department for 12 years. During those 12 years I have been assigned to central west Austin, Court Services, and now work in historic East Austin as a District Representative. District Representatives are a specialized unit of officers who are assigned to each of four regions within the city. As a District Representative, my job consists of community engagement functions such as dialogues, community events, and neighborhood meetings. I work to empower the community members in my district to solve problems from a neighborhood standpoint. Neighborhood association and other community leaders are vital partners to the police department. We rely on this partnership to help make Austin safer every day.
Policing is a calling. Police officers must be willing to educate themselves about their community, communicate effectively, and be willing to listen to different perspectives. Officers should value community conversations and recognize our warrior spirit should not outshine our peaceful spirit as we know to show balance. Policing is no longer mostly about fighting crime—it is more about enhancing the synergy in your neighborhoods, becoming a stakeholder in your community, and immersing yourself in the neighborhoods you serve. We show up at family cookouts, sit on the stoop with our community grandmas, and listen to concerns from the youth. This is the new era of policing and it keeps me looking forward to work every day.
Officer Erica Danielle
I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, on the east side of the city. At a young age, my desire to become a police officer grew. I vividly remember playing cops and robbers with my cousins and friends. I enjoyed the thrill of being the officer…chasing, instead of being the robber who was always running away and hiding. Since that time, I knew I wanted to do what was right: uphold the law, serve justice, and get bad guys off the streets.
Growing up in East Austin, I got to see police officers on a daily basis. Sometimes they were driving through the neighborhood with lights and sirens, other times they were stopping a car, and occasionally I got to see them arrest someone. Unfortunately at that time, I never got to see an officer interact with me or my friends. I never saw them in my neighborhood just saying “Hi.” Back then, it was always business. Therefore, I was never able to relate to an officer and a negative perception of law enforcement was created for me by the one-sided stories my friends and family would tell. Regardless of those stories, though, as I got older I became more and more interested in becoming a Texas State Trooper. Who wouldn’t want to rock a cowboy hat and pair of cowboy boots to work every day? During a high school career event I had the opportunity to shadow a trooper at a substation. At the end of the career day, I was told that I would most likely be transferred to the Mexican border after graduating the police academy if I applied. “A perfect fit,” they said. “You speak Spanish and you’re single - yup, straight to the border.” On my way home that day, I told myself it wasn’t happening. I felt deflated and thought my dream was crushed forever.
It was around this same time that Art Acevedo was appointed as chief of the Austin Police Department. I remember the night I saw him on a Spanish news station. I was in my parents’ bedroom and saw Chief Acevedo speaking in Spanish, introducing himself to the Austin Hispanic community. In his speech he advised he was going to make the Austin PD more accountable and more transparent. I remember looking over to my parents and being wowed! I had finally been able to connect with someone in law enforcement and my interest in the Austin PD began to grow. I graduated high school and went on to college knowing I wanted to become an officer in Austin.
During my college senior year, I participated in an internship program with APD. For five months, I shadowed officers and walked in their shoes. I was ecstatic. After graduating college I applied to the Austin Police Department and prepared myself mentally and physically for the police academy. After graduating, I chose to patrol the South Central region of Austin—an area with a heavy Hispanic population and where I felt my skills and Spanish speaking abilities would be best implemented. After two and a half years, I was offered a day shift position on patrol in Central East Austin, the area where I was born and raised. After 5 years on patrol, I was then asked to become a District Representative. As a District Representative I’m able to engage more and partake in events within my community. I’m able to connect with families in a non-“business” setting which is especially important to me because I didn’t have those same interactions growing up. I’m able to connect groups within the community to help solve issues and problems plaguing them - while creating and maintaining a trust between the police department and the community it serves.
Officer Bino Cadenas
I was born and raised in the Austin area by paramedics and a fireman, so public service has been in my blood since the very beginning. In high school I knew I would pursue a career in the public service realm but I wasn’t quite sure at that point what it would be. After obtaining my EMT and working in a local hospital emergency room, I quickly learned medicine was not in my future. While working at the hospital, though, I had the opportunity to interact with police officers, got a glimpse into what they did, and I was hooked!
I joined the Austin Police Department at 21 years old. In fact, I remember being told that most likely I wouldn’t get in because I lacked life experience. My rebuttal was: how do I get life experience if I’m not given the opportunity? The police academy was certainly life changing, and I quickly gained the experience I previously lacked. Not only did I learn a lot about myself, but I made life-long friends, many of whom I now consider family.
I spent the first part of my career on patrol and eventually promoted to the rank of detective where I’ve worked several different assignments. One of the main reasons I chose this department is because there are so many units/areas here to work in. I really appreciate the variety and the opportunities that it affords me.
My first assignment was working as a division detective where I investigated everything from thefts to aggravated assaults in one region of the city. Later I worked in our Special Investigations Unit (SIU), investigating possible criminal violations from police officers and other public officials. I also worked in our Cold Case Unit where I discovered my passion for investigating cases surrounding death. I currently work as a detective in our Homicide Unit, and I can truly say that I have found my place. I came to this department over 20 years ago with the mindset that I was going to help people. Though it took me a long time to realize that helping people comes in many different ways, it has been extremely rewarding and I have become a better person because of it.
Detective Angel Polansky
I started my career with the Austin Police Department in January of 2013 as a cadet in the Modified Academy. Prior to 2013 I worked for the San Jose (California) Police Department, starting my career there in 1996. I took the leap and joined APD because the Department offers an array of opportunities and advancement.
Since graduating the academy I have had an opportunity to work in various communities throughout the city and a number of different shifts on patrol. I also worked in the Lake Patrol Unit for about three years. I am currently assigned to patrol as a Field Training Officer and serve as a member of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). CIT officers respond to calls for service that require someone well-trained in mental health crises.
The Austin Police Department is a well-respected department that is recognized across the country. The Department works closely with various segments of the Austin community and even with internationally renowned events like ACL and SXSW. The Department offers opportunities to work almost any type of assignment that a career in law enforcement can offer. Having worked specialized units like METRO and SWAT in San Jose, Austin offers the same and more. The knowledge I’ve obtained being a part of the Lake Patrol Unit and now FTO and CIT has only added to my career and experiences in law enforcement.
I also enjoy being a part of the Honor Guard as a member of the Pipe and Drum Corps where I serve as a bagpipe player. The Pipe and Drum Corps in Austin is a respected and nationally recognized band. It is so humbling to honor fallen officers across the country and represent this department. I am honored that I can use my background in music to do this. The Department allows the band to practice on duty once a month, and provides the band with instruments and uniforms.
The Austin Police Department is a great department with an array of opportunities for anyone starting a career or looking to start a new chapter in their career. The officers are top tier and professional. It has been an honor to be a part of this organization. I look forward to continuing to serve as an Austin police officer.
Officer Geoff Sumner
I first joined the Austin Police Department as a civilian employee in the Financial Management Department. At my interview with Finance I expressed my interest in becoming a police officer someday. I didn’t have any family or friends in the field at the time so I wanted to spend time as a civilian before I made that decision. I quickly discovered that law enforcement was definitely for me.
I remember thinking that I knew the meaning of a calling but I never experienced that feeling until I made the decision to become a police officer. It felt, and still feels, like this is where I'm supposed to be. Graduating the academy is one of my accomplishments that I am most proud of. It is hard work but more than worth it!
I am currently assigned to the Northeast Area Command where I am a patrol officer on a night shift. The majority of my years prior to this assignment were spent in the Downtown Area Command. I’ve also worked in specialized units within the department and in collaboration with other agencies. It’s great to be able to take on different assignments at the rank of police officer. It keeps the job interesting and I’m constantly learning new skills that will be helpful when I decide to promote.
One of the things I enjoy most is the challenge of our profession. No investigation will ever be the same, and no shift will ever be the same. We respond to such a wide variety of calls and interact with so many different people throughout each shift. I will never know everything, but I can and do learn a lot. I enjoy learning and sharing what I've learned with younger officers.
Something that is especially important to me about policing is doing whatever I can to bring justice to victims and their families. I have family members who have been victims of violent crime, so I know firsthand how important it is to feel heard, seen, and to be treated with fairness and honesty. If I can do my job right, and do it well, they will have their justice in court.
Policing takes a special person. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and also compassion. If you’ve got those things, we can train you to do the rest!
Officer Kristy Astran
Hello, my name is Danielle Hessig. I am originally from Minnesota but moved to Austin in June of 2015. I am a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities where I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology and minors in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviancy. After graduation, I decided to get my Sign Language Interpreting degree. I worked as a Sign Language interpreter for two years before I decided to move to Austin.
After moving to Austin I was employed as an Investigator for Child Protective Services. In this position I worked side by side with several law enforcement officers and detectives. As a result of my positive experiences, I became much more interested in a career in law enforcement. I decided to apply to the Austin Police Department and was accepted into the academy.
The APD Academy does a great job of preparing you for the challenges that you will face both mentally and physically when you hit the streets. I graduated from the APD academy in December 2017 and I can honestly say that making the decision to become a police officer was the best decision of my life. I love working in the community of Austin, where I feel the citizens truly appreciate officers. As a female, I not only feel respected by my fellow officers, but by the citizens of Austin as well.
As police officers, we show up in people’s lives on their worst days and are trusted to make decisions that impact their lives immensely. Every day is a new day with new calls and different experiences. You constantly learn new things about the job and the citizens in the community. This job challenges you on a daily basis. I hope after reading my story, you’re up for the challenge, too!