Women on the Team

More and more women are choosing to start careers in law enforcement today. A job that provides financial stability, great benefits, a pension, opportunities for advancement, and lifelong friendships with your colleagues can be hard to come by. But at the Austin Police Department, we pride ourselves in offering all of these things. Women have served at every rank in this department and even serve on teams, such as SWAT, that have historically been comprised of male officers. Want to know more about the women of APD? Read our success stories below. 

Commander Catherine Johnson

When I was asked to write down some thoughts about being a female police officer the initial emotion I felt was panic! 

 

How can I write down nearly 20 years of experience into a couple of paragraphs that would hopefully motivate you to take the chance that I did back in 1999? The answer came from my 11 year old son who told me to just be honest and to make sure I use spell check. Thanks, kiddo.

 

So here is a fun and honest fact: for the past 19 years, I’ve loved my job. I mean I really LOVE my job. 

Here’s how my career at APD evolved, in a nutshell: After I graduated the police academy I worked as a patrol officer for six years. I then worked for Street Response and the Recruiting Unit as an officer before promoting to the rank of Detective in 2005. As a Detective I worked in Violent Crimes for the Child Abuse Unit and later for Internal Affairs. In 2008 I promoted to Sergeant and was assigned to patrol, centralized investigations, and again, Internal Affairs. Five years later I promoted to the rank of Lieutenant where I was assigned to patrol and operations for the South Bureau. I promoted to Commander in 2017 and am currently assigned to Region III Patrol - Henry Sector. Some of my other accomplishments include graduating from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and from the FBI National Academy Session 261 in Quantico, Virginia. Throughout my journey I also got married, had two beautiful children and became a proud soccer mom. 

 

I love the community I serve, the friends I’ve made whose relationships I’ve come to cherish, and most importantly the sense of family I have with my fellow officers. I have laughed nearly every day to the point of crying and I’ve also cried alongside the community in the hardest of times. I get to help people in their darkest moments and celebrate with them in their most joyous occasions. I can’t wait to get to work each day and I still remember getting my first paycheck thinking, “I cannot believe they are paying me to do this…this is incredible!”

 

You may have self-doubt or questions about whether you have what it takes to get through the academy or the first year of field training but you can. You can do it all. Each step in the recruiting and training process prepares you for the next stage in becoming one of Austin’s finest. We expect and hope you have questions along the way and we are here to help you through it all. It’s not easy and you will have to make sacrifices but I promise you this will be the most rewarding career. I would not change a moment and I would do it all over again if I could.

 

The hardest part is taking the first step. It’s making the decision to apply. The best part is that you are not alone! You have the support of the women who came before you—the 200+ brave women who have experienced what you are about to experience and are here to help and cheer you along the way. We are in this together.

Commander Catherine Johnson

Lieutenant Gizette Gaslin

 I am Gizette Gaslin and I have worked for the Austin Police Department for 23 years.

 

Prior to working at APD, I was a Corrections Officer at the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. I started my academy class at APD in July 1995 at the age of 23. After graduating I served as a patrol officer in central east Austin which was a new adventure for me after growing up on the south side of town. I was a young naïve patrol officer who was excited about serving my community.  

After patrolling east Austin for 3 years, I transferred to the Training Academy as a Cadet Instructor and later served as a District Representative in north and central Austin. In 2005 I promoted to the rank of Detective and worked assignments in the Child Abuse Unit, Internal Affairs, the Family Violence Unit, and Sex Crimes. I enjoyed my time in the Child Abuse Unit the most because I was able to help child victims.

 

In 2012, I promoted to the rank of Sergeant where I was assigned to a patrol shift in the northeast section of the city. I later worked for the Recruiting Unit which I found to be very rewarding because I was able to watch applicants progress from our hiring process through the academy to graduation. I really enjoyed getting to know them and watching all of their hard work pay off.

 

In 2016 I promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, where I was assigned as a nightshift Lieutenant over patrol. In April 2017 I was selected as the new Community Engagement Coordinator in the Chief’s Office. My role is to oversee the District Representative program and the community policing program. In this position I am able to create partnerships and collaborate with external stakeholders. I am learning how important it is to foster positive relationships with the community and how to improve our community policing efforts as a department. A few times I have found myself outside of my comfort zone and it has opened my eyes to a lot of new things, which I think is important for personal and professional growth.

 

One thing I love about Austin is that it’s a great place to live and to raise your family. I came to Austin when I was 6 years old, so I have seen the city grow in many ways. Austin is such a friendly city with a lot of outdoor activities for the active person. I love going to the Hike and Bike Trail (Lady Bird Lake) to enjoy a nice brisk walk. I also enjoy all the different races they host here in the city - from 5K’s to full marathons, there’s something for everyone and every skill level.

 

Historically, policing has been considered a non-traditional career for women. I find that it is a great way to act as a social worker, listener, and mentor. I have improved those three skills over the past 23 years at APD. The skill I’ve really enjoyed fostering the most is mentoring new officers and the youth in our community. I enjoy being a role model not only for women but for young girls of color, to show them that succeeding in this career is possible while being a woman and African-American. It is also important as a female officer to know the history and how far we have come in this profession. The first woman was not hired until 1978, and today we have more and more women joining the Department each year. 

 

This was a great career choice for me because this job has allowed me to make a difference in the lives of those I came into contact with over the last 23 years. I’ve worked hard to make an impact not only with the community but with the officers that I’ve worked with. When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. Being an instructor at the Academy enabled me to follow my dream and teach our cadets. I enjoyed sharing my experiences and the mistakes I made along the way in my career. There is a motto I always try to live by not only personally but professionally, and that is: “Always treat people the way you would want to be treated.”

Lieutenant Gizette Gaslin

Lieutenant Katrina Pruitt

My name is Katrina Pruitt. When I was 25 years old in August of 1990, I started the APD Academy.

 

I was terrified when the Academy first started, even though I knew becoming a police officer was something I wanted to do my whole life. The reason for my terror? I always struggled in school and I knew the Academy was going to involve a lot of reading and studying. Growing up, it took me longer to read and write than other students. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered I was dyslexic and finally understood why I was struggling. I didn’t let it hold me back, though, and I found that with hard work and a lot of studying, I did well. It was a challenge but I was not going to let dyslexia hold me back from doing all the things I wanted to do. 

I graduated the Academy in February 1991 at the age of 26 and spent a little over 5 years on the street as a patrol officer. I quickly realized that my size required me to learn to talk my way in and out of situations. I took some training classes to help me with talking through critical situations and found I really enjoyed it. In 1996, I was selected to go to the Organized Crimes Division where I worked an array of assignments over the next 11 years including filing abatement cases, prostitution stings, undercover drug cases and property buys. I became a member of the Hostage Negotiator team where I was able to put my new de-escalation skills to great use. During that time I also promoted to detective and was allowed to remain in Organized Crime where I worked prescription fraud. I trained and became the safety officer and quartermaster for the Narcotics Clandestine Lab Team. I had an array of opportunities to do some very exciting things while working Narcotics, one of which was working with the Narcotics dog. 

 

I love animals so I requested to take a Narcotics dog handler position if it ever opened up. In 1999 a position became available and I became a handler. I spent eight of my 11 years in Organized Crimes working with a beautiful black lab named Ebenezer (Eb). Eb was a phenomenal dog. He could find a small amount of marijuana on a football field in a matter of seconds. 

 

As time went by, I moved up on the Hostage Negotiator roster and became a team leader and later a supervisor with my own team. I remained a Hostage Negotiator for 15 years. In 2006 I promoted to Sergeant and went to Henry Sector in east Austin. I supervised a wonderful group of young officers and had a great time going back to patrol. I also supervised detectives in the same sector. In 2009 I had the opportunity to transfer to the Robbery Unit. Robbery was by far one of my favorite places to work throughout my career—the fast pace, constant activity and hardworking detectives made every day exciting. Prior to promoting to the rank of Lieutenant, I transferred to Sex Crimes as a Sergeant to learn that side of investigations. Sex Crimes was a challenge because I had limited training and understanding of the work done in that unit. I walked away from that position having a greater knowledge and understanding than I ever thought I would get. Overall, it was a good experience and the friendships I cultivated are still strong today. 

 

In April of 2012, I promoted to Lieutenant and moved to the south side of the river working night shift patrol in Frank and David sectors. Going back to patrol was another change for me and I loved running calls with the officers. It was exciting and when I went home at night, I always knew why I do this job.  

 

I transferred to Special Operations EOD in January 2013 where I worked with the Bomb Techs and Bomb dog program. In late 2013 I was assigned a SWAT Team to supervise as well. After a year or so, the Department went through a restructure and I handed off EOD to another lieutenant. I loved working with EOD but had learned so much having both units, I felt I should stay with SWAT because I loved it and it allowed me to remain active with the Hostage Negotiators and keep the fast paced activity a regular part of my job.

 

My SWAT Team has 3 sergeants, 21 officers and 15 part-time officers. As the Lieutenant I also oversee the Hostage Negotiator program. The HN’s have 24 volunteer officers, corporals and sergeants, and work hand in hand with the SWAT team. SWAT, Hostage Negotiators and EOD are responsible for handling all High Risk Search and Arrest warrants, barricaded criminal calls and barricaded suicidal subject calls. SWAT is a fast paced unit with a lot of ongoing training. I enjoy the faster pace, and hope to remain in SWAT for several more years.  

 

The last 28 years have provided me with opportunities far beyond what I imagined when I first began my career as a scared 25 year old in the Academy. I strongly encourage young ladies and young men to consider a career in law enforcement. In a few paragraphs, I cannot express how much fun, the level of joy and fulfillment that being a police officer has given me.   

Lieutenant Katrina Pruitt

Detective Tonya Jefferson

I am Detective Tonya Jefferson and I have worked for the Austin Police Department for over 20 years.

 

I started working as an officer and was a single mother. It was very difficult at times to find child care and finding time to spend with my daughter. We as parents want what is best for our children and I felt making the ultimate sacrifice for her future was what I set out to do. I worked tireless hours and proved myself to be the best I could. I was able to move off of night shift onto a dayshift within my first 5 years so that I could spend more time with my daughter. The Department was very flexible in that area and worked with me.

I remained on patrol for several years before I decided to try something new. I was encouraged to apply for the Motorcycle Unit. I was hesitant but knew I was up for the challenge. I was informed that the Austin Police Department had not had any African American female officers on their motorcycle unit, so I became interested. Many people informed me they did not feel I would be able to ride the bigger motorcycles or pick the motorcycle up but I sought to prove them wrong. I passed the strenuous Motor school and served in that unit for 2 ½ years. I then had a major accident and transferred to the community outreach unit.

 

I served 2 years as a District Representative and had the most educational and joyous time working directly with the community. I was free to work on different projects with kids, solving community problems and being a point of contact for those in need.

I then promoted to Corporal and transferred to the Missing Persons Unit where I worked mainly with at-risk runaway youth. My passion was to work with kids and I was able to learn what triggers youth to choose to run away. I worked to develop an outreach program to try and curve the number of drop outs and runaways being reported. Through this work I learned that communication with parents and youth is critical.

 

I finally had the opportunity to work with kids on a different level and transferred to the Child Abuse Unit. Here I am able to work for kids by assisting with investigating cases of children who have been physically, mentally or sexually abused. Those close to me felt this would be a hard job to handle mentally. So far, I have been able to overcome the case load and focus on the reward of helping children who can’t speak or are afraid to tell anyone what happened to them.

 

I love working for the Austin Police Department because of the diverse agency and community I serve. I have been included in communication for change and have had opportunities to be flexible in the things that I choose to work on in the community. The Department was great when I first came on as a single parent. My chain of command worked with me to ensure I maintained a stable family life and I am so appreciative of that. When I first started, I was afraid of working as an officer because of male intimidation. I knew I had to stand my ground and allow others to get to know me and the things I cared most about. And I am glad I did!—I was given the respect I needed to have a successful career.

Detective Tonya Jefferson

Officer Melony Bowman

My name is Melony Bowman. I was born here in Austin, Texas, grew up in the Austin area and graduated from Pflugerville High School. I am a wife to another APD officer and a mother to two young children.

 

I didn’t come to be a police officer for the reasons that some people do—it wasn’t because of a mentor, or a role model, or because I was following a legacy. It was because of my father. My biological father lived a hard life and I didn’t have him in my life the way a daughter needs or wants a father to be. I rarely saw him when I was growing up because he suffered from drug and alcohol addictions and had been arrested on multiple occasions. He eventually changed his ways, and I believe that his experiences with the police and the time he spent in jail is what brought about that transformation.

My decision to become a police officer came after I witnessed the good that law enforcement officers and the justice system can do. When I saw that my father was capable of change, I wanted to be a part of that change for someone else. His change didn’t come for years, but it did come. I am grateful for it because it allowed me to establish a better relationship with him as an adult and to spend time with him before he passed away. I chose this job hoping that I could positively affect someone else’s life in a similar way.

 

I started my career with the Austin Police Department in November of 2005. After graduating from the police academy I spent several years on patrol, working nights and evenings until my daughter was born. I then transferred to the Recruiting Unit where I worked a day shift and continued working for that unit after having my son. Playing such a vital role in the beginning stages of someone’s career was so rewarding for me. I recently transferred to the Training Academy where I am assigned to the Continuing Education Unit. My job is to train our commissioned police officers on a variety of subjects. I enjoy having the opportunity to teach and I work with a great team.

 

What I love most about working for APD is that our police officers all have the same opportunities for change. At the rank of Police Officer there are a variety of jobs available in specialized units. After your required time on patrol, you can work those assignments with a lateral transfer rather than having to promote to a new rank to get there. It allows for a lot of flexibility and you’re constantly learning new skills. In my case, having an opportunity to switch from night shifts to a day shift made it much easier to grow my family.

 

If you are a woman who’s considering a career in law enforcement, my advice to you is this: do it! Don’t let anyone hold you back or question your abilities. You are more than capable.

Officer Melony Bowman

Officer Nettie Rogers

I’m Senior Police Officer Nettie Rogers. I grew up in Pharr, Texas—a small town close to the U.S./Mexico border.

 

I joined the Austin Police Department in 2007. Before joining APD I served in the Texas Army National Guard and Army Reserves for six years. 

 

Becoming a police officer was an easy transition for me because of my military background. However, it was also challenging because when I signed up for the academy I was a single parent. I had to quickly learn how to balance my life as a single working mother so that I could be successful at both things simultaneously. I had a lot of support from my family and I am so thankful for that. 

When I graduated from the police academy I was assigned to an evening patrol shift in Frank sector, which is an area in Southeast Austin.  After a few years I transferred to a day shift and patrolled David sector, an area in southwest Austin. I now work for the Recruiting Unit and have been here for over four years where I’ve worked as a Recruiter, Intake Officer, and Background Investigator.  

 

I love working for the Austin Police Department because there are so many different career paths for us to choose from once we complete our required time on patrol.  At some point in my career I would like to work as a detective in one of the many investigative units at the department.

 

When I’m not working I love to spend my time with my family and I also like to go for long trail runs in one of the many greenbelts in the Austin area. Austin is a beautiful city with great weather and offers so many great ways to get outside. 

Officer Nettie Rogers

Officer Monika McCoy

My name is Monika McCoy. I am a native of Texas and graduated the Austin Police Academy in December 2013 at the age of 42.

 

My father was an Austin police officer in the 1960’s prior to my birth. When I was a very young girl, I remember seeing black and white photos of him looking so honorable in his police uniform and those images have always stuck with me. My parents raised me in a manner to always be kind, compassionate, and helpful towards others. I can remember as far back as kindergarten wanting to become a police officer when I grew up.

After graduating high school, I joined the U.S. Army and had plans to become a police officer after serving my country. As my life’s journey of events unfolded, I became a young mother and my primary responsibility then became my family and raising my children.

 

I served 10 years in the military and although my passion for becoming a police officer never faded, I waited until my youngest child was a senior in high school before applying for the Austin Police Department.

 

I am thankful to the Austin Police Department for giving me the opportunity to make my dream become a reality and am honored to serve the Austin community as a police officer with the Austin Police Department.

 

The Austin Police Department provides a vast amount of opportunities to be involved in different programs and to be a part of specialized units. I am currently a member of the STAR program which is a police exchange program similar to a foreign exchange student program you might find in high school. With this program, officers have the opportunity to go to Germany and Spain in addition to hosting a police officer from Germany or Spain. I am also a part of APD’s Special Response Team (SRT) which primarily responds to situations that may require riot control to keep everyone safe. After spending 4 1/2 years as a patrol officer, I transferred to one of APD’s many specialized units. 

 

Being a police officer with the Austin Police Department is rewarding in many aspects. I am appreciative that I can serve in a role in which I can be a part of making the community safer, but also have the opportunity and ability to help positively impact someone’s life and be a role model to children, adolescents, and other women. 

 

 

Officer Monika McCoy

Officer Amanda Santeford

My name is Amanda Santeford. I’m from right here in Austin, Texas, and I’ve been a police officer for 15 years. 

 

I didn’t always want to be a police officer. In fact, I think many people thought I would end up on the other side! I grew up in Williamson County where you would have thought it was illegal to be a kid. I struggled with my weight, had a somewhat turbulent youth and, at times, an abusive home life. I found my sanctuary riding my horse; I wanted to grow up to ride and train horses for a living. 

I moved out when I was 16 years old and found out just how difficult life could be. I moved as far away from home as possible to Washington State but after only two years, I had to come home to the city I loved. I attempted to make amends with family and started working for the family business, doing private security for several high risk properties, but still had very little to no direction for my life in general. It was during that time that I met several Austin police officers and was always impressed by their mere presence and how they handled the issues at hand. One day, one of those officers urged me to consider a career in law enforcement. I thought about it and decided to take the plunge. I began working out to prepare for the academy and quickly found another passion in the gym. I can still remember my first day on the job and remember thinking I was in for the ride of my life. I fell in love with law enforcement. You have to love this, or it will make you crazy. To this day, I still believe I have the best job in the world! 

 

I always knew that Austin was the department for me. The city has so much to offer. The police department does as well. APD has so many opportunities in all different aspects of law enforcement: patrol, investigations, public relations, motors, bikes, etc. I’m currently assigned to the Mounted Patrol Unit. We do the job of a normal police officer (and then some); we just do it from horseback. The Austin Police Department has allowed me to combine two of my loves, horses and law enforcement. So I guess dreams really do come true!

Officer Amanda Santeford

Officer Laurie Gomez

I am Laurie Gomez and I am from San Antonio, Texas. After graduating high school I left San Antonio for college and attended Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana where I played softball. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and a teaching certification.

 

I graduated from the academy in December 2017 and have been with the department as a patrol officer since that time. I wanted to become a police officer for a few reasons: I grew up listening to stories about my dad's "normal" day at work (a retired San Antonio Police Officer), which sounded fun; the second reason—I can never turn down a good challenge! The academy was mentally and physically challenging but at the end of every day I was one step closer to my goal: graduation! As an officer, I continue to be challenged every day. I am trusted to make difficult decisions in a split second for complete strangers which could negatively or positively affect their lives.

 

Even with the challenges I face on a daily basis, I love the career I have chosen to embark on with APD. With Austin having such a diverse community, I have had the opportunity to interact with people from all around the world and from all walks of life.

 

The department itself is just as diverse as the community it serves. APD has so much to offer. There are officers from every corner of the country employed within our ranks, just as there are residents that have moved here because of the Austin lifestyle and the city’s employment opportunities.

 

Deciding to begin a career in law enforcement is easy. Everything else after that decision is the hard part. The road leading up to becoming a commissioned police officer with APD will not be easy in any way but it will all be worth it when your badge is pinned on your uniform.

 

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”

-Colin Powell

Officer Laurie Gomez