Blue Threads

Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera: Blazing a Trail for Women in Law Enforcement

July 7, 2022

Meet Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera

Trailblazers are rare by definition. Only one person gets to be the “first” to achieve a given feat, to open paths that were previously closed or hidden. We often read about “trailblazers” in our history books, and rarely have the opportunity to meet them in person. 

Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera is a true trailblazer in law enforcement. She began her time as sheriff in 2017, becoming the first female sheriff in the state of Utah. At the time, she was also the only female Latina sheriff in the nation.

Winding Road to Law Enforcement

Sheriff Rivera did not follow any type of traditional path into law enforcement or her current role. 

Her interest started at age 7, watching “Perry Mason” with her dad. 

“He wanted me to be an attorney,” Sheriff Rivera recalled, “but I was more interested in the law enforcement side of things.”

Her interests and plans changed when she became a mother at age 14. All of her energy went into doing jobs, including working as a migrant worker in onion fields, to support her son.

At age 31, Rivera started what is currently a 29-year career in law enforcement, working in a wide variety of roles in different focus areas within the department.

RIvera came into the profession at a time when less than 15% of sworn officers in sheriffs’ offices were female, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. So, the unique challenges that a mother faces in balancing a demanding career and raising a family were considered much less than they are today.

“There were only nine females when I started, so the understanding of a woman having children was not where it is today. I had to juggle shifts. I was responsible for ‘making it work.’” 

The support of friends, family, and mentors in the field helped her to persevere and grow in her career.

Of her interest in law enforcement, Sheriff Rivera said, “It gives you the ability to help people in a way you would never imagine. You see people at their worse, and you get to be the positive voice in that life.”  

Positive Voice

Being a force for positivity is a thread that runs through Sheriff Rivera’s career.

Asked to describe her proudest accomplishment, the very decorated sheriff recounted her time as a detective in the metro gang unit:

“I got to see a different community of individuals who are influenced by others to do some bad things. I began mentoring female gang members to help them get out of gangs.”

Sheriff Rivera now oversees that gang unit, along with creating programs like their “Choose Gang Free” program to help steer youth away from gangs.

Now in a leadership position, Rivera also serves as a mentor to women who may be interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement or are already in the field:

“If you want to make a difference in your community, then get in. You be the best you; you don’t have to compete with other people around you. Many women believe you have to act like a male, you don’t. Women bring unique skills and characteristics to policing that are beneficial to law enforcement.”

Changing Law Enforcement

Over the course of her 29 year career, Sheriff Rivera has seen a lot of changes and shifts within law enforcement. 

“Policing is evolving. We’re making changes to better serve the community. Law enforcement truly cares about protecting their community. Law enforcement today will continue to evolve to make the communities better and build trust within our communities.”

“Treat everyone with kindness and respect, and truly change lives.”
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