TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — For Monica Prieto, becoming a police officer is something she didn't expect.
“I felt like I was always intrigued about being a detective growing up,” she said. "But I never saw it as an option because you have to become an officer before becoming a detective and I didn't think that would be something I'd be capable of."
Now, Prieto is the first Latina assistant chief for the Tucson Police department, an agency she has served for over 23 years. She was promoted to detective in 2005 and since then, served many other positions in the department.
"Luckily, I worked with some great individuals that challenged me, pushed me and encouraged me to promote," she said.
Four women have held the position with the first being in the 1970s. Prieto said about 15% of the Tucson Police Department are women. According to a Pew Research study, only 4% of staff at police agencies are women in Arizona. Nationally, 7% of staff at police agencies are women, the study said.
“It’s important to not that coming on as a woman, we have to prove ourselves a little bit more," she said.
As a Tucson native, she said it's an honor to serve the community where she grew up.
"I grew up playing team sports and I think that really laid the foundation for what police work is," she said.
And with her new position, she is tasked with overseeing the police force and providing the team with needed resources. She said she hopes to inspire
"I feel like if I can inspire anyone — regardless of gender, age and race — if I can inspire them to cast their doubts aside and pursue a career in law enforcement, then it's something I can pay forward," she said.