Woman named as Lawrence's first Latina detective 

CARL RUSSO/Staff file photo. In this file photo, Lawrence patrolwoman Ana Villavizar and Jordany Vargas hold St. Michael medals donated to the department. Villavizar was just named the department's first Latina detective.

LAWRENCE — Ana Villavizar has worked in security, as a recruiter and a military police officer.

Locals might recognize her because she also worked for six years at Tripoli's bakery in Lawrence. 

"That's probably the job where I had the most fun," said Villavizar, 27, laughing.

Villavizar is now embarking on a new role as she is the first Latin woman named a detective in the Lawrence Police Department. There are 11 detectives working among 135 officers of various ranks in the Lawrence Police Department.

An estimated 70 percent of the city's residents are of Latino descent. 

Capt. Roy Vasque, who oversees LPD detectives, described Villavizar as the "best candidate" for a detective's job for a variety of reasons.

"Obviously, being bilingual is a plus. And she was highly recommended and her reports are outstanding and thorough," he said.

Villavizar is also "energetic with a great attitude and a desire to work cases from beginning to end ... She's well rounded in everything," he said.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Villavizar came to Lawrence at age 4. She attended Lawrence schools and graduated from Lawrence High School in 2009. 

A member of the National Guard for 9 years, Villavizar has served on active duty overseas as a military police officer in Qatar and Germany.

She became a Lawrence police officer in 2014 pursuing a law enforcement career, a job which best suits her character.

"There is a satisfaction when you can help people ... Everyday I come to work and I actually get excited," she said. 

She described police work "stressful but rewarding at the same time."

"It's a job you have to love to do it," she said. 

Echoing Vasque, Mayor Daniel Rivera said Villavizar has the "right attitude and is very energetic." 

"She will hit the ground running. Being female and Latino, she is a reflection of the community and that's important," he said. 

Similarly to Villavizar, Rivera noted he was also previously a military police officer. 

Also named to the detective division recently were Lawrence officers Patrick Noonan, Paul Aliano and Timothy Yerian. Officer Aaron Blanco will now be working with the Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit, Vasque said. 

Villavizar was attending detective training this week. In a brief phone interview she said she "excited but also a little nervous" about starting the new job. 

"I want to gain as much knowledge as possible and go wherever it takes me," she said. 

She acknowledged that some days on the job can make a person sad or angry.

But, she noted, "This is where I want to be." 

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.