WEST JORDAN, Utah (ABC4) – If you’ve ever been nervous to talk to police or feel anxiety when an officer pulls you over, a cop in West Jordan gets what you’re going through. She uses her own traumatic experience as motivation to make sure you never feel that way with her, in this edition of Behind the Badge.
When you hear what happened to this officer, you may think becoming a cop is the last thing she’d want to do, but she believes her traumatic story helps her connect with people and makes her a better officer.
If you get pulled over by a cop you may hope it’s Officer Alondra Zavala of the West Jordan Police Department. It’s Zavala’s personal goal to change your perception of police.
“If I can do that for one call, for one person, and they have a better life because of it, that makes me feel like I’ve accomplished what I put this badge on for,” said Alondra Zavala, West Jordan Police Dept. Patrol Officer.
Zavala knows what it’s like to be afraid of the police. Shortly before she became an officer Zavala said she and her family were kidnapped by two corrupt Mexican cops on a family trip on the Gulf of California.
“Afterwards I was like yeah I can’t believe this just happened it’s crazy, you hear about it and I was joking about it before I left, but never in a million years would I think it actually happens,” said Zavala.
As Zavala explained, “We were on our way to visit my grandmother… We’re always told when you live in Mexico not to drive or be very careful when you drive,” she said.
“We got pulled over by law enforcement… They stopped the vehicle and asked my mother for her license and registration… There was another officer on the passenger side who asked my mother’s husband to get out of the vehicle… As soon as he opens the door, the other officer opens the driver’s side door and immediately pushes my mother into the center console and both officers got in the vehicle and started driving us off into the middle of nowhere.”
She said the only reason they escaped was running into a decent cop who scared the others off.
“There wasn’t any internet service where we were being held so they had to go back near the main road, when he went back to the main road, he found another officer who was driving around in the area, and that officer could’ve called for help and could’ve done something, so he immediately told the guys that were holding us that they should get rid of us at that point,” said Zavala.
Once they made it back, Zavala said she knew why some people are afraid of the police and decided she wanted to be a cop you can trust.
“I just started thinking about people’s perspectives I went to school with, and their experience with law enforcement and it wasn’t always good, however, there’s always that one person that has that a good experience with law enforcement and that changes their perspective,” she said.
Zavala believes if she can help you know she understands what’s like to be scared, and stressed with police, it’s a lot easier to build trust, and maybe change the way you look at the next cop car you see.
It wasn’t just her getting kidnapped that made her want to become an officer. Years before she joined the police department, she worked at different rehabilitation centers for people with substance abuse, mental illness, and trauma, including becoming a licensed sexual assault advocate, at the age of 16 working for a rape recovery center – all just to better understand and talk with people when she did become a cop.