Westminster Police Department Detective Marcela Lopez approaches policing from a couple of different perspectives: first, as a woman, and second, as a person who came to police work after a 10-year stint in social work.

Her history makes her decision to become a SWAT tactical officer, and the first female from Westminster to join the elite team, all the more interesting.

“I’ve been on the Crisis Negotiation Team for about five years now,” she said of the unit that works with SWAT to diffuse situations before forced entry is required.

As a former social worker with a personality and empathy suited for the work, negotiating and de-escalation does fit her skill set.

“I have been told I have a lot of patience, sometimes to a fault,” Lopez says.

But Lopez wanted to expand her professional qualifications and said, “The tactical piece interested me to better myself as an officer.”

Although Lopez currently works as a robbery and homicide detective, she knows her career path will inevitably lead back to patrol. Officers on the streets don’t typically receive SWAT training but can use the skills taught and sharpened on the team. Lopez said there may be occasions in SWAT when her Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT) training could come in handy.