RIVERTON, Utah -- As Utah celebrates its pioneer heritage this weekend, a Utah policewoman is continuing her pioneering career.
Rosie Rivera is a new deputy chief in the Unified Police Department, and her promotion is the latest in a long line of firsts for Rivera.
Rivera was the first female officer of the year for the metro gang unit. She was the first female sergeant and lieutenant for Taylorsville Police Department, and now she is the first woman in the history of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Unified Police Department to earn the rank of chief.
“I’m a resident of Riverton, a longtime resident, and I think it's important to have someone with knowledge of what goes on in the city to be in a leadership role for the police department,” said Rivera, who is the Chief of Police Services for UPD in the Riverton precinct.
UPD policy allows each community it serves to choose their chief of police.
Riverton City Mayor Bill Applegarth spoke about their chief.
"Rosie's our new chief, she is a wonderful person,” Applegarth said.
Cities can hire from a large pool--anyone in the UPD with the rank of lieutenant or higher. For Riverton, the choice was simple.
"She knows Riverton well as a resident, now as an officer,” Applegarth said. “She's very well-liked by the community. She fits into our community well. She knows our culture. She knows our staffs. She knows how to work well. She's very highly thought of by the officers in UPD.”
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder also had high praise for Rivera.
“She's a wonderful, talented, capable administrator and an excellent police officer, so there's no wonder that the city--and specifically the mayor and council--are very excited about her appointment,” he said.
Chief Rivera started with Weber State University and spent 12 years at the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office. She spent seven years with Taylorsville Police Department and has been with UPD since Taylorsville joined in 2012.
She’s had to prove herself in a male-dominated field.
"It is, you know, still viewed as a man's job, but we're changing that,” she said.
When Rivera was hired in 1993, there were only nine female deputies, and now there are a number of women on the streets and in leadership roles.
"Sometimes we tend to have more patience, a little bit more empathy for others, and I think it really helps,” she said.
As a single mother at 15, Chief Rivera didn't pursue her police career until she was 31.
Recent high-profile cases have given police a bad rap, and her family another thing to worry about.
"Right now there's a threat out there for law enforcement just simply for the recent things that have been going on, and you know your family's always going to worry, regardless, as long as I’m wearing a badge,” she said.
She wanted to be a police officer since she was young and watched TV shows like "Adam 12" and "Chips."
"Police shows are not as accurate as you would think in real life, but we do have a good time,” she said.
Rivera said her focus will remain on community policing and building a trusting partnership with city officials and residents.