Pflugerville’s police chief has brought change to department
Despite additions, force is still facing a shortage of officers and dispatchers.
Pflugerville Police Chief Jessica Robledo’s leadership style and outgoing demeanor has led to half a year of changes, including reorganization, recruitment and increased community outreach that’s even brought some back to the department.
Robledo is both the city’s first woman and first Hispanic police chief. Yet, for her, the most important thing is leading with a servant heart.
“I open my door to the community and to my officers, most importantly, and I allow them to come to the table with ideas and I allow them to have input,” she said. “If this is their community that they’re serving, this is their police department, and I want them to feel a part of it.”
On July 14, the department held a graduation ceremony as six new officers joined the Pflugerville ranks. Among those graduates was officer Tonya Losoya.
A military police Army veteran, Losoya worked as a Pflugerville police dispatcher from 2006 to 2010, but left to become a police officer in Hutto. She said the positive changes at the department and Robledo’s leadership style brought her back.
“That’s how I like to patrol and I like to do police work — is with my heart,” she said.
Despite the additions, Robledo said the department still faces a shortage of officers and dispatchers. Currently, the department has 77 officers out of 85 authorized positions in the city budget.
“Right now, we’re short on patrol and everybody’s running 100 miles an hour,” she said.
Robledo, who was named interim chief in January and chief in February, inherited a handful of vacancies and some officers have retired as well.
The six new officers must still go through about 12 weeks of field training, during which they are teamed up with experienced officers and evaluated on their performance before going out in the field on their own.
“The plan is to become full staff, because now patrol is short,” Robledo said. “What it’s going to allow us to do is streamline some processes, identify some target areas (like) traffic, property crime and violent crime. Whatever comes up, we’ll able to apply the officers in that area.”
Now, Robledo and her staff are ramping up recruiting efforts and hoping to bring more women and minorities into the fold through its website, social media and community outreach by Robledo and her officers.
Of the 77 sworn officers, eight are women and 13 are minorities. “We’re not where we need to be,” she said. “Our Police Department needs to represent and reflect the community that we serve.”
To help recruit more women to the force, Robledo put a female sergeant, Sgt. Tricia Mirabelle, in the recruiting unit.
Losoya said she, too, is actively recruiting women to join the force. She said at Hutto, she was one of four women out of 30 officers.
Adding more diversity to the force also tops Robledo’s recruiting wish list.
“When someone looks like you, you feel more comfortable approaching them when a crime is committed, or if you speak their language,” she said. “I would love to have officers from other cultural backgrounds.”
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo conducts the ceremonial “pinning” of the badge for Interim Police Chief Jessica Robledo in January at the Pflugerville Police Department. She was named chief in February.