Pflugerville’s po­lice chief has brought change to depart­ment

De­spite ad­di­tions, force is still fac­ing a short­age of of­fi­cers and dis­patch­ers.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Ni­cole Bar­rios ni­cole.bar­rios@ac­n­news­pa­pers.com

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.”

PAUL BRICK / FOR ACN NEWS­PA­PERS

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.

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