PARK CITY, Utah (ABC4) – The latest promotion in the Summit County Sheriff’s Office made history…or make that “her-story,’ because Felcia Sotelo is the first female Patrol Sergeant in the agency’s 160-year history.
Sotelo tells Behind The Badge she originally wanted to be an attorney, but ended up in a uniform instead of an office, and she’s never looked back.
She has made her mark as a deputy, a drug court coordinator, honor guard member, the Elks Club Deputy of the Year for 2019, and now, the new title of Sergeant.
“I think it’s really cool,” Sgt. Sotelo said. “I think it’s really great for women who are looking at law enforcement or who want to become law enforcement officers to see that it’s possible. It’s not out of the reach.”
The wife, mother of two, and stepmom of two others says it’s not easy, especially with the long hours.
“I think one of my biggest challenges is just balancing my career and my family life. I have kids. I have a husband,” she said. “I think juggling the kid portion and making sure they have everything they need, especially if I’m going to be on graveyards or something like that, had definitely been a challenge.”
Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez says Sgt. Sotelo “leads by example.”
“I don’t see the mom,” Sheriff Martinez said. “I see a very capable supervisor. I see a leader, the future of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. I see somebody that is poised to take on this role and do it with compassion yet have the respect of the deputies that she’s leading.”
For Sgt. Sotelo, the job is all about the people she encounters.
“I really like connecting with the community that I live in. I mean I live here. I work here and so I see people that I know all of the time,” she said. “Being able to help humanize law enforcement really means a lot to me. You know, so when I see people in the community, I want to be that approachable law enforcement officer. I want them to be able to come up and talk to me whether I’m in uniform or not.”
While we were recording, Sgt. Sotelo pulled over a driver on Highway 40. She approached the car with caution because there’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop. She recalls one years ago, around 3 in the morning, that seemed normal until she discovered the driver had a warrant.
“I’m sitting in my car waiting for my backup officer to arrive and I hear what sounds like a gun racking right? Like a pistol slide racking,” she said. “The windows are up. It’s cold. Super late and I hear this sound. I was looking around. It was really weird so I waited.”
It was a smart move because after they took the man into custody, she learned her ears were right.
“He had a loaded handgun right here in his seat,” she said. “So I definitely feel like there’s some higher power reaching out then because that sticks with me still to this day.”
In her new role, Sergeant Sotelo will oversee a crew of five deputies and handle the county’s biggest cases, like major assaults and death investigations. In addition to all that, she’s also a crisis negotiator, a firearms instructor, and get this, an FAA-licensed drone pilot.