Sgt. Gisela Lorena Altamirano

Texarkana Independent School District Police Department

Gisela Altamirano started her law enforcement career with the Texarkana Texas Police Department in August 2002 as one of the first Hispanic female officers. She was assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division early in her career, working on crimes against children, sexual assaults, and domestic violence. She was also a member of the hostage negotiations team and a certified bike patrol officer. In October 2010, she was given an opportunity to work at Texarkana College Department of Safety as a police officer, where she stayed for 11 years. During that time, she was assigned to patrol, became a R.A.D. instructor, and continued to be a hostage negotiator. In September 2021, she was given the opportunity to work for the Texarkana Independent School District Police Department, where she was assigned as a Sergeant. “The most rewarding part of my job is interacting with and building relationships with the many students I meet daily. In the eight months that I have worked for the TISD Police Department, I have had the privilege of working at Texas Middle School primarily. I look forward to being greeted by students in the hallways as they call out ‘Hey Mrs. G!’ Many students invite me to their games, or talk to me when they are having a bad day,” Sgt. Altamirano says. “I have a chance to interact with students on a more personal level and to build their trust in me as an officer and law enforcement in general.”

Sgt. Altamirano says that just knowing that she is making a small difference in a child’s life helps motivate her on the most difficult days of her job. However, one of the most challenging aspects of her job is not being able to help every child/student see their potential. She wishes she could help them see how their choices affect them long-term. “The most important day-to-day responsibility as an officer for the school district is to help keep them safe and make a positive impact in a child’s life,” Sgt. Altamirano says. 

Sgt. Altamirano knows first-hand what it can be like for many of our TISD students. Growing up in California, she used to hang out with the “wrong crowd,” trying to fit in. Many of her friends were members of gangs or had close ties to them, but Sgt. Altamirano feels that God placed the right people at the right time in her life while growing up. “I was introduced to basketball while attending Lincoln Middle School, which kept me off the streets until moving to Texarkana, Texas. Once I was in Texarkana, it was difficult adjusting to school when no one looked like you or could relate to you, but there was one teacher I will never forget: Mr. Mac. He made it a point to make me feel like I belonged,” Sgt. Altamirano says. “Also my freshman English teacher, Mrs. Murray was genuinely there for her students and made them think of their future beyond high school. I was the first in my family to graduate high school and attend college, but I had no clue where to even start to get there.” Then, a group of people from “Talent Search” entered Sgt. Altamirano’s life and helped her realize that she had the potential and an opportunity to attend college. Mr. Moser, Mrs. Sonia Jewell, and Toney Favors helped Sgt. Altamirano reach her goals by helping her fill out college applications and attend college tours. “It is because of people like them who took the time to really care that helped change the life of a young Mexican-American girl who might otherwise not have had the opportunity to attend college,” Sgt. Altamirano says. “I feel my role as a police officer in the school district gives me the opportunity to give back and perhaps help change the life of a child like the many adults who helped me when I needed it the most.”

At home, Sgt. Altamirano always had the support of her mother, Guadalupe, and her sisters, Melissa and Esmerelda. Sgt. Altamirano says that her mother, Guadalupe, always showed her daughters the value of hard work, perseverance, and determination. Guadalupe came to this country at the age of sixteen as an immigrant, and even though she did not speak the language, she never gave up. She worked long hours, and she often went without so that Sgt. Altamirano and her sisters could have the best opportunities. Guadalupe could only complete the sixth grade in Mexico because, as the oldest daughter, she had to stay home and help her parents. “Because of this, my mother always stressed the importance of education and told us not to take it for granted because without it, life would be so much harder. She encouraged my sisters and me to always make good grades and to continue our education as far as we were able to. She always said that giving us the opportunity to get an education was the biggest gift she could give us besides us being an American citizen,” Sgt. Altamirano says. “I am grateful for everything my mother has sacrificed, not only for me, but also for my children and sisters.”

Sgt. Altamirano has two children, Natalie and Braden. Her daughter Natalie is married to Nicholas Pope, and they have four children of their own: Levii, Rowan, August, and Ian. “Natalie was only 6-years-old when I became a police officer. She has been my biggest supporter,” Sgt. Altamirano says. “A few years later my son, Braden, came along and made life that much better. He is a loving, smart, good-hearted young man that makes me proud every day. My daughter, Natalie, became the best big sister to her brother when he was diagnosed with Autism, and she helped out so much when I was at work. They have both been so understanding and supportive of my career even though I’ve missed a lot of milestones in their lives. They are the reason I am who I am.”

In college, Sgt. Altamirano was inspired to pursue law enforcement as a career after taking several sociology, psychology, and criminal justice courses. “Dr. Bunting was my sociology instructor at Texarkana College, and she made it so interesting,” Sgt. Altamirano says. “I became fascinated with human behavior and why people and society behave and react the way we do. I felt that by becoming a police officer I could possibly make a positive change in my community.”

When she started her field training, Sgt. Altamirano had several obstacles to overcome, including her size. Standing at only five feet, Sgt. Altamirano felt like she had to work twice as hard to prove to both male officers and the citizens that she would encounter that she could handle herself in physical or difficult situations. “Early on in my training, I was assigned to Officer Brent Caudle, who probably had one of the biggest impacts on my career in law enforcement. He said, ‘G, you can’t physically do everything a male officer can in every situation, so you’re going to have to learn and master your verbal communication skills.’ Then, he demonstrated these skills every time we were dispatched to a call. I began to notice that he rarely had to raise his voice and never got angry or flustered, yet he could get people to comply. He spoke to people with respect, and he knew exactly how to communicate with the variety of personalities we had to deal with on a daily basis,” Sgt. Altamirano says. “I have spent most of my career trying to master the skills of communications that he so effortlessly demonstrated and taught me. The ability to learn how to read people and situations and effectively communicate has helped tremendously.”

Office Caudle is just one in a long line of officers that have influenced and supported Sgt. Altamirano. “I have been blessed. God has really placed so many wonderful people in my life and career like Chief Gass, Officer Chuck Green, Officer Vic Thornburg, Sgt. Looney, Sgt. Biggar, Sgt. Daddato, Officer Palmore, Officer Hakk, Chief Warren and Chief Irvin,” Sgt. Altamirano says. “To all of them, I am truly grateful for the experiences, lessons, guidance, encouragement, and opportunities they have given me in my 20 years in law enforcement.” 

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