“We are not going to go home until we figure or find out who killed that little girl,” Albuquerque Police Sergeant Hollie Anderson said, recalling a case where she worked for 36 hours to solve the murder of girl who died in a drive-by shooting. “It takes a lot of dedication and the cops here are willing to do it.”
Anderson solved murders as a homicide detective from 2011 to 2015. Now, as a Sergeant, she leads her own team out in the field. With 20 cases under her belt, Anderson has a 90 percent solve rate and a 100 percent conviction rate.
“I really enjoy this job,” she said. “It’s way more than I had ever expected. And I have been happy my entire career.”
When she was in the homicide unit, Anderson said her team had the “highest solve rate in the nation to go along with the high homicide rate.”
According to APD’s 2015 report, the department solved 80 percent of the 39 homicides that year. The report also indicates that New Mexico’s homicide rate is 78 percent, 13 percent higher than the national average.
Anderson “fell into the position” while working as an administrative assistant in the Aviation Police Department. She said she never thought she would become a cop until she actually donned the uniform.
Anderson was looking for a job to help support her son and was attracted to APD for its benefits and for being an equal opportunity employer.
Anderson decided to enter the police academy, which she said she was not prepared for when it came to the rigorous training.
“I did have the determination,” she said. “I was not going to quit, because I had my son. He was a very big motivation of getting through it.”
After graduating from the Academy, Anderson became an officer, and said the department turned into an extended family, even as members of her own family were going down the same path. Her husband is a detective, her brother-in-law is an officer and her sisters are dispatchers.
Anderson said people tend to have a perception of what an officer looks or acts like. However, she said she believes “anybody can be an officer,” adding that diversity is crucial for the department.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are,” she said. “As long as you can do the job, they are going to let you do the job. And we want a diversified environment so we have all the different resources, backgrounds and ethnicities, as well as people who speak different languages.”
Anderson said the number of female officers is increasing, noting that they play an important role in a traditionally male-dominated field.
She said a diverse police force allows the department to adapt to different situations.
“Sometimes, when dealing with kids or people in traumatic situations, they might prefer to talk to a girl,” she said. “Or if it is a rape victim, she might prefer to talk to a girl if it was a female-male encounter.”
Anderson has faced many challenges as an officer. When she was a homicide detective, a suspect affixed her in his delusions and, in order to get him to confess to multiple murders, she was required to “cooperate with his delusions.”
The suspect was not in restraints and Anderson was the only officer in the room.
“That made me uncomfortable more than the others, because he was trying to make it personal for me,” she said. “But once it’s over, you just leave it there.”
Being a cop requires self-identification, she said, which is knowing if you could cope with the harsh realities of the job. Anderson said she does not let it affect her personal life, adding that her family has been an important support system.
Anderson plans to stay with APD until she can retire. She said she wants to continue moving up to different positions within the department and ultimately become a lieutenant.
Andres Del Aguila is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Andres_DA95.