By John Hernandez
Lieutenant Tamatha “Tami” Villar is back in San Manuel with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. She is the Supervisor for Region B, the largest geographical area of Pinal County. Her officers cover an area that extends past Kearny and down to SaddleBrooke, a geographically and economically diverse region.
Tami has been in law enforcement nearly 16 years. She grew up in Marana, Arizona and lived there all her life until joining the City of Eloy Police Department, where she worked for three years. She was then hired on with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department, starting out as a patrol officer.
As a patrolman, she was assigned to San Manuel as the School Resource Officer where she taught the DARE program. After leaving San Manuel, she was a detective working in the sex crimes division and later in homicide.
Tami was promoted to Sergeant and in 2004 returned to San Manuel. In 2007, she returned to Florence where she worked as the Public Information Officer for 18 months. She then worked in Community Relations where she was involved with programs such as Neighborhood Watch and the Explorers. In 2012 she was selected to attend the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia along with fellow officer Lieutenant Blake King. She became the first female from Pinal County to attend. Less than one percent of law enforcement executives are selected to participate in the academy.
To attend the academy, an officer must first be nominated by their department. The FBI National Academy then selects the candidates from the nominees. The academy is one of the premier training centers for law enforcement in the world.
“I was honored that I was selected” said Villar. Out of the 260 candidates at the academy, thirty were women. It was the largest female delegation in the history of the FBI National Academy which began their first sessions in 1935.
Since then, 45,000 men have completed the academy while only 1,700 women have done so. “It was very cost effective training” she said. The FBI paid for the meals, air fare and the ten weeks of training.
Tami said it was an amazing experience. “The academy provided us with fantastic training in problem solving, law and legal, advanced leadership skills, technology, and networking,” she said.
The trainees attended class five days a week and did physical training three days a week. Villar said the hardest part being away from her family. The biggest challenge at the academy was living in a small dorm room with four women and only one bathroom.
One of the highlights of her stay at the academy was during National Police Week when they were given the opportunity to plan a whole day of activities and fun for 126 children of fallen officers. It was a way of honoring those officers that had lost their lives in the line of duty. The trainees got to travel to New York where they were able to visit Ground Zero and take a boat tour which included a stop by the Statue of Liberty.
They also got to see the New York City Police computerized command center in action. Villar was able to meet the FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The final test of the fitness challenge at the FBI National Academy is known as the “Yellow Brick Road.” This challenge is optional and involves a 6.1 mile long grueling run through a hilly woody trail and obstacle course that was designed and built by the United States Marine Corps. It is called the Yellow Brick Road because the Marines started using yellow colored bricks to mark sections of the trail. They later embraced the Wizard of Oz theme to name different sections of the trail such as “Not in Kansas Anymore,” the “Munchkin Trot,” and “Journey to Oz.”
Along the Yellow Brick Road, the participants must climb over walls, run through creeks and mud, use ropes to scale rock walls, crawl under barbed wire and more. At the end of the obstacle course is a two-mile uphill run. Those participants that completed the Yellow Brick Road physical fitness challenge are given a yellow brick. Villar proudly displays it in her office.
In Sept. 2012, she was assigned to patrol and chose San Manuel. She said she enjoyed the relationships she built in the community when she worked there previously. “It has a rural feel and is still warm and welcoming,” she said. “I like the people. There is a lot of good we can do in the community.”
While working for Pinal County, she met her husband who works as a traffic officer in the Gila River Indian Community. They now have two children and reside in Red Rock.
Villar said she sees property crimes/theft and domestic violence as the major crime problems in the Tri-Community. The property crimes her officers deal with in the area are probably drug related.
“Drugs are the root of the problem” she said. “We will be working harder to address drug sales. They have a negative impact in every community.”
Villar said that the poor socio-economic times and the stress of not having jobs leads to drug and alcohol problems. The substance abuse problems lead to theft and impact domestic violence.
As for domestic violence, she thinks the issue is mishandled nationwide. “There needs to be a definite focus that needs to be placed on mental health and domestic violence issues,” she said.
She has been appointed to the Board of Directors for the Safe Journey Home in San Manuel.
Villar maintains an open door policy, saying people should come see her if anyone has a problem they feel has not been addressed. She also wants to make sure the community is aware of the anonymous tip lines that are available. The anonymous tip line for Pinal County is 1-800-420-8689. There is also a statewide silent witness line that will get the information to Pinal County authorities: 1-800-358-4636.