Police Officers overcome obstacles everyday. That concept is nothing new to Police Officer Letisia Ruiz, a petite brunette, now in her sixth year as a Los Angeles Police Officer.A Los Angeles native, Ruiz grew up in the Rampart district with eleven brothers and sisters, with parents that did the best they could despite difficult circumstances.
“I know I did not make it any easier for them,” Ruiz remarks as she recalls running away from home with her boyfriend at age 12. By age 15, she found herself pregnant, alone and scared. Desperate, she returned home to her family.
“My parents did what they could, they allowed me to come back home, but I had tasted independence, tasted freedom. I liked it and I wanted to stand on my own two feet,” Ruiz said.
Her parents had always stressed the importance of education, particularly higher education. Once back home, Ruiz made a life changing decision, “I knew I had to make the best possible choices for my baby and make sure he had all the opportunities I could not have.”
With help from La Posada, a community services agency, Ruiz found transitional housing for single mothers. With La Posada and her family providing the support she needed, Ruiz returned to school.
“I enrolled in continuation school to earn my high school diploma. I wanted to graduate with the kids I went to middle school with,” Ruiz said. “So I did home school and continuation school to complete three years of education in just one.”
Through extraordinary effort and drive, Ruiz earned her way back into the student body of Belmont High School to graduate on schedule with honors.
While at Belmont High School, Ruiz discovered the opportunities and possibilities available through a career with the Los Angeles Police Department. She knew immediately this would be the life for her.
“There were no positive role models around when I was growing up. I saw lives lost and potentials destroyed by drugs, gangs and hopelessness. I did not want to become another statistic. I was determined that my son and others in our community would see me as a positive role model, that I would stand up and make something of myself for me and my son.”
Immediately following high school, she enrolled in Los Angeles City College, earning two Associate of Arts degrees in Liberal Arts and Administration of Justice, both with honors. Ruiz then transferred to California State University, Los Angeles to earn a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice. During her senior year at Cal State LA, Ruiz took the LAPD written test. Soon after graduation, Ruiz was admitted to the Los Angeles Police Academy.
Six months later, Ruiz graduated and took her first assignment in the Hollenbeck Division. After overcoming so much, applying the academics and tactics she learned in the Academy to the real life challenges she encountered on the streets became another obstacle to overcome. And overcome she did…
Officer Ruiz worked in the Recruitment and Employment Division, as a recruiter and a mentor, helping new candidates navigate the LAPD selection process. Next, she was promoted to Training Officer in the Audit Division, insuring LAPD compliance with state and federal mandates. While at the same time attending National University to obtain a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership.
Last October, Officer Ruiz was promoted yet again to her current position as Senior Lead Officer in the Imperial Courts Housing Development, working with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) to improve the quality of life of residents. She loves the direct impact she has on the lives of young people she encounters, “…perhaps my testimony can help some young person avoid unnecessary pitfalls and feel encouraged to dream big and work hard.”Overcoming obstacles is not easy, but with drive and determination it is possible. Just ask Police Officer Letisia Ruiz, daughter in a family of twelve, single mother at 15, now a proud member of LA’s finest.