What is your name and department/agency?
Nikki Tezak, formerly with the Palmer Lake Police Department, Palmer Lake, Colorado. I am currently a member of the Woodland Park Police Department, Woodland Park, Colorado.
Please give us a little background about yourself, i.e., family, education, hobbies, etc.
I am the second child of four, 2 boys and 1 other girl, and we were raised by our strong, independent mother. I am in my 19th year in law enforcement, having working in diverse areas such as corrections, detentions, investigation and patrol. I was the first female and also the first sergeant in the town of Palmer Lake, and worked for a short period of time as the acting police chief. I enjoy spending my off duty time with family and friends, as well as spending time alone taking long walks and reading.
When and why did you decide to become involved in law enforcement?
Growing up I was witness to years of domestic violence. I knew at an early age I wanted to make a difference and help those who were unable to help themselves. As a helpless child and not having a voice, it was my goal in life to prevent any further abuse of those close to me. In 1993, I was able to put myself through an academy; I’ve been in law enforcement ever since. It is a struggle every day to witness abuse, and it has always been a personal mission to save at least one person.
What is your present assignment?
I recently made a career change after eight years as a sergeant with the Palmer Lake Police Department and I am again enjoying my career on the street as a patrol officer with the Woodland Park Police Department. I look forward to making a difference within my new and exciting department.
What do you like most about your job?
I enjoy being able to make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes it is not the first impression, as all law enforcement officers know, however being thanked later for my efforts makes it all worth it in the end. I always take pride in knowing that at the end of every day I have made a difference in one life. Whether it’s saving someone from abuse, or taking a drunk and reckless driver off the street, or finding and helping someone that feels they have nothing to live for, it’s all rewarding.
What do you like least about your job?
The worst part of being a police officer is the negative perception about officers. Knowing that once we put on our uniform there are people out there who hate what we stand for. If people only understood we do this job to protect them and their loved ones from harm’s way, it would make a difference influencing the younger generation and inspire them to respect the law and those of us upholding the law.
How does your family feel about you being in law enforcement?
My mother and step-father loved my career and were proud of me and my accomplishments. I come from a LE family, some of whom are in corrections and US Marshalls. To be a part of such an amazing family and career path is truly an honor.
Do you think the consensus is that law enforcement is a man’s job? If so, have you had difficulty being accepted as an equal?
I believe for the most part woman in law enforcement have finally been accepted as equal, and we are part of what law enforcement is about today. When I started my career 19 years ago in small communities and departments, it was unusual to see women working the job. It took some time for some men to accept the changes. I believe myself, and many other women in this career had to work a little harder through the years to prove we deserve to be in such a challenging career. Because of the wonderful women who came before me, more doors opened for woman around the world. Having more females in law enforcement makes me proud to be among such fantastic role models.
What would you like the public to know about your job?
It would be nice if people understood we are here to help people and better society. We have families, we have emotions, we have bad days and good days and we are human. We chose this career to make a difference, not to hurt people. It is disheartening to know there are people out there who hate what we stand for and would rather hurt or kill a law enforcement officer, than take the time to realize we put our lives on the line every day we put on that uniform to save them and their families.
If you had to do it over again, would you choose law enforcement as a career?
Without a doubt I would chose this path again; it is by far the most rewarding career I can imagine. People who are able to take the risk; give back to their communities and are willing to dedicate their lives to serving their fellow citizens realize an amazing, rewarding career. Those people who are serving in this capacity have a unique bond and become family for life. I made the right decision and I would never change my career path.
Anything additional you’d like to share?
My career has been a blessing and the most rewarding experience of my life. Having been a witness to severe abuse growing up, I never wanted anyone else to experience that kind of pain. I could have taken a different path in life, however, living through such a traumatic chain of events I knew this was the career for me. Having had many experiences in my career, seeing both good and bad, looking into the eyes of a scared innocent child, or taking an intoxicated person off the road that could have killed a family, gives me a better appreciation for the people in my own life. I have learned to value my life, whether it be good and bad, and in the end it is worth every minute, hour, day and years I have spent in law enforcement by touching the lives of so many people.