Behind the Badge -- Josie Montenegro
To discuss why I chose to become a police officer, takes me back to when I was a young child growing up in Hacienda Heights, California. I remember my first years of elementary school and when a police officer or military personnel came to visit, everyone was in awe -- including me. The professional attire and equipment they had was so impressive. Knowing that they helped people made them all heroes in my eyes and I wanted to be like them.
I recognize that some of the work that police officers do can be traumatic for some, especially kids, to witness. I remember as a young child witnessing family members being arrested. I was scared, but my parents explained what happened and I knew that the police were just doing their job.
Young children often know what is going on around them in the world, more than adults sometimes want to acknowledge. I was aware of illegal drug usage by some family and friends. Again, at a young age, I knew it was wrong and I made the decision for myself that I did not want to do any illegal drugs, especially since I wanted to be a police officer.
As a teenager, my oldest brother was murdered. He lived in California and was shot and stabbed to death. This was hard for me to believe and I kept thinking that it was a mistake of identity. However, the information never changed. And, unfortunately, no suspect was ever held responsible for the homicide.
I have always stood up for what I believe is right, even at the cost of getting in trouble. One example involved waiting and counting aloud the 30 “swings” on the swing set during lunchtime. The boy on the swing was not the friendliest and laughed as he continued to swing even after he was well over his 30. On his way back on the swing, I pulled his legs, which forced him to fall off. Luckily, I did not cause a broken arm or any other significant injury. I received detention, but that boy never did that again.
I excelled in sports and played baseball with boys, until I moved to Arizona at the age of 10. I continued to play softball until I was introduced to soccer at the age of 12. I loved how physical soccer was and this took over my life. I also ran distance on the track team while at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe. I primarily ran the 800, 1-mile and 2-mile. My best times were 5:15 for the 1-mile and 11:19 for the 2-mile, and I was able to win State in the 2-mile and was runner-up in the 1-mile. Ultimately, I obtained a full, athletic scholarship to play soccer at the University of Oklahoma.
Deciding on what field to go into at college was easy -- criminology. I fell in love with the movie “Silence of the Lambs” while in high school. I originally wanted to go into the FBI and knew that they preferred two years of a government job prior to applying. So, my plan was to start with Tempe PD and then apply for the FBI.
My Work with the Tempe PD
I have now been working for Tempe PD nearly 20 years and still love it here. I no longer have any desire to work anywhere else and I am so grateful for the many wonderful opportunities I have had during my career. Some of the opportunities that I have had include patrol, mall cop, investigations working property crimes, domestic violence, robbery, school resource officer, patrol sergeant, academy sergeant, public information officer, lieutenant over investigations, and I am currently the commander over the Investigations Bureau.
I use my personal life struggles to have empathy for the community members we encounter. This could be relating to someone who just had their vehicle or home broken into. I also share sympathy for those family members that are trying to help their loved ones that are addicted to drugs, or those that are fighting the addiction. No matter the circumstances of someone’s death, they have family members that loved and cared about them.
I am just one of many on the Tempe Police Department that signed up to protect and serve. I love my job and pray to have many more successful years in the department.