High school science teacher swaps the classroom for Texas SWAT team
Army vet Victoria Watson taught high school science for 10 years before she decided she wanted to make a career change into policing
By Laura B. Martinez
The Brownsville Herald
BROWNSVILLE, Texas — Victoria Watson taught high school science for 10 years before she decided she wanted to make a career change, and her career change has led her to become a member of an "elite team."
Watson is the first-ever female member of the Brownsville Police Department's SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team. She is also the first full-time female SWAT member in the Rio Grande Valley.
Watson, an Army veteran, joined the police department in 2016 and was sworn in as an officer in 2017. She runs the health and fitness program for the department's police officers.
"It's a very, very enjoyable career choice, something that is different, something that is out of the norm and it has always attracted my attention," Watson said. "I highly encourage any female, if they ever had a little thought or idea that they want to go into law enforcement to pursue that dream."
The Brownsville Police Department was formed in 1891. The officers started wearing uniforms in 1905.
Watson is also one of two officers in the department that are trained in sign language to help with hearing impaired in the community. "I highly encourage everybody to learn American Sign language. That's very important to me to support the deaf community." She has been called out to assist in incidents where those in needed are unable to communicate because they cannot hear.
Watson tried out to become SWAT team member in August, submitting a letter of intent, and then went through several steps in the process that included physical training, firearms training, and more physical training. After making it through these steps, she then went before an oral board and then waited to see if she was selected.
"In this position there is no okay, well she's a female, it's the same standard for everyone across the board regardless of gender. This is a specialized team that everybody needs to perform in their peak performance," said Investigator Martin Sandoval, spokesman for Brownsville PD.
Watson said she always wanted to be a member of the SWAT team because they are the group the police department calls upon when they help. "They are the elite of every department. I have always been drawn to that."
The SWAT team is made of patrol officers, detectives from the criminal investigations and special investigations division, training department and department supervisors. "The department they work in that's their normal job and SWAT is the assignment what they got chosen to do," Sandoval said. "They have to do their police work, and this is just an extra added task that they chose that they wanted to do."
What you see SWAT teams do in television shows, is very different from what actual SWAT teams do, Sandoval said. "Their training is actually more rigorous than what they show on TV. They have to be ready on the spot, on call. We call them, they have to drop what they are doing, they have to go do what they got to do. A lot of times when they are called it is because there is no other option. We need them," Sandoval said.
The SWAT team has yet to be called out for assistance since Watson became a team member. She will be "boots on the ground" when the team gets called out.
Watson told her family prior to be selected as member that she wanted to join department's SWAT team and her family backed her decision.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't have the support from the two most important people of my life, my mom, and my husband. They are very, very supportive. They have never laughed at my ideas or put me down, or second guess myself," Watson said.
SWAT team members must not only be physically but mentally ready to perform their duties in crisis situations. According to the U.S Department of Justice, SWAT Teams handle certain crisis situations such as snipers, barricaded subjects, hostage situations, and heavy arrests.
Watson said being in law enforcement is not for everyone because you have to be willing to miss birthdays, holidays and other family gatherings in order to perform your job well. "If you are not ready to commit like that then give yourself some time because it may come later if in interests you."
Watson's message to all women thinking about joining law enforcement is to "do it."
"I don't care for stereo types, I don't care for norms, do what your heart tells you because you will thank yourself and you will be a role model without evening knowing you are," she said. "Put yourself first. I'm a mom, I'm a daughter, I'm wife...I know if I can do it anybody can do it. It's just a mindset. If you have the mindset, if you have the desire, if you have the drive, if you have the discipline, then give it 100% because you will never look back."
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