When you hear Trish Hoffman’s extraordinary story, it’s as if she was meant to be a police officer, a vocation she has devoted her life to for the past 20 years with the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). Motivated, in part, by a terrifying ordeal she experienced in her own pre-law enforcement life, her commitment to her community extends well beyond her shift hours and pay grade through a multidisciplinary course she developed and self-funds to empower women to protect themselves against crime.
Sgt. Hoffman has been with APD since November 1995, and although she took a circuitous path to get there, it’s a job that her mom swears she’s wanted to do since the age of 5. “After college, I got involved in my Dad’s insurance business and realized I was meant to do something more rewarding and challenging with my life,” she told WYSK. “I was in New Mexico on a business trip and saw signs for the police department. That planted a seed in the back of my mind.”
“I always thought if I could save one person from ever going through what I experienced then I should do it.”
But it was a personal ordeal that marked the real turning point in Trish’s life, and subsequently her career. She shared, “From 1992-1994, while living in Scottsdale, Arizona, I was stalked by a guy for almost two years. After numerous police reports (50+), three restraining orders, and relocating to different apartments three times, I decided, along with the advice of police, a Private Investigator, and my family, it was time to make a change.” Before she could put any plans in motion, on New Year’s Eve 1993 the situation went from scary to potentially deadly. “The guy showed up at my apartment, stated he was going to kill me, my friend, and himself because he couldn’t handle things any longer. I packed my car, my cat, my clothes and my mom, and drove to Albuquerque.”
With the help of a dear friend who gave Trish a place to stay, she started a new life using a different name. “After 6 months and working as a Certified Nursing Assistant and making no money, becoming a police officer seemed like the natural thing to do,” she recalled. “I thought if I could save one person from ever going through what I experienced then I should do it.”
Trish first tested for the New Mexico State Police and was hired. But she waited for the Albuquerque Police testing to finish and was then hired by them. After 12 years on the job, Trish was promoted to Sergeant in November 2007. Over her two decades with APD she spent 9.5 years on patrol, served as the Public Information Officer for 2 terms (almost 6 years), was in Internal Affairs, and then back to patrol for 5 years as a Sergeant. Now going on her eighth year as a supervisor, Sgt. Hoffman is currently assigned to the Central Investigations Bureau (CIB), where she oversees the Financial Crimes Unit. She is also on the Lieutenant list, and will be promoted in 2016.
On top of her already demanding police duties, Trish has spent the last fourteen years using her professional expertise and personal experience to help women in her spare time. “In 2001, I was recovering from a burst appendix, and while I was on light duty at the Police Academy redoing lesson plans, a Captain suggested I start a class for women. At the time, we had CPA (Citizen Police Academy) and the Junior Police Academy for kids, but nothing specifically for women.” It was the impetus for Trish’s Women Against Crime, a 9-week course she developed in order to teach other women in her community how to protect themselves.
Based on awareness and options, Women Against Crime is part classroom and part hands-on learning. The course classes include Basic Personal Safety, Robbery, Burglary, Carjacking, Domestic Violence, Drug Awareness, Self-Defense, Gang Awareness, Handgun Basics, How To Prepare For Car Accidents, and Financial Crime Awareness. It concludes with a graduation ceremony where students receive course certificates, followed by a pot luck dinner.
On her own time and on her own dime (she pays for the supplies out of her own pocket), Sgt. Hoffman teaches Women Against Crime twice a year (January-March and September-November), and it’s free to any woman who wants to take it, including the wives of her fellow officers. Season after season, due to its overwhelming popularity, there is usually a waiting list to get in.
Of the all-women aspect of the course, Trish quipped, “Men are not excluded, but since I’m a girl… well… I always say men are just too afraid to attend.”
Since launching Women Against Crime, Trish has received countless letters over the years from students who’ve said she has changed their lives. It’s humbling feedback like this that drives her to remain vigilant in her goal of “educating my community… one woman at a time.”
The invaluable benefits other women get from taking her course are evident, so we asked Sgt. Hoffman what she gets from teaching it. In true Trish form, her response was as selfless as we expected. “I love seeing the difference from the time women walk in; their confidence is lacking and when they graduate they think they can tackle anything. I see the difference in them. I see the way they carry themselves, how they are excited and feel free to live their lives with a healthy paranoia, not scared, but confident,” she explained. “I am so thankful and grateful to teach other women. All of my students remind me how important my message is.”
And it’s a message and mission Sgt. Hoffman hopes to spread beyond her local community. “I would love to take my program outside Albuquerque. I dream of teaching Women Against Crime everywhere. No one should feel as if they are a victim in their own home or feel afraid to live their life. I want to help women find their balance.”