By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Fort Bend Star
Sgt. Veronica Martin always knew she wanted to be in law enforcement to make sure people would not feel apprehensive talking to police.
Now, after 17 years in law enforcement work, including patrol, civil, investigations and mental health training, the Houston native is back with the department she loves as the first female officer with rank for Fort Bend County’s sprawling Precinct 3.
When Constable Wayne Thompson won the election for Precinct 3 against the long-standing 28-year incumbent, there were several changes on his plate including promoting the first woman to a supervisory position.
He knew exactly where to turn for his first female sergeant, even though she’d already left the department for the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.
“Veronica Martin worked here for almost seven years and has 17 years total law enforcement experience. The past constable would not promote to a female position and she definitely has the time, experience and knowledge,” said Thompson, explaining why he named her to a command position.
Martin said she transferred to the sheriff’s office, “due to the lack of leadership of the previous administration.”
“Good people have left with the old administration because he never progressed with the times. He didn’t want to change.”
“I went to where I felt my skills and experience would be better utilized in the community,” Martin said.
When the new constable asked her back, “I was humbled, honored and excited with the new position.” Though she was with the sheriff’s office for nearly six months, she said she learned a lot.
“It was a difficult decision for me and my family to leave the sheriff’s office,” she said. “The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office is an outstanding agency with immense talent and incredible leadership. I cannot express how professional and diligent the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office is operated. However, I was given the opportunity to be part of the command staff for Constable Thompson at Precinct 3. He is a good guy and I wholeheartedly believe in his vision for the future of the constable’s office.”
Part of that vision of wanting the public to feel comfortable talking with deputies falls right in line with one of Martin’s strengths. She is personable and accessible. During a recent interview with the Star at a local restaurant, she easily greeted customers with a smile and eye contact.
“My way of operating with people is however they are in the moment,” she said. “It’s common sense, you have to go with what level they’re at. If I’m approachable I can get them to do what I ask them to do. I’m also the one to jump in when someone is in crisis; I’m there,” she said.
She gives credit to previous supervisors in teaching her tact.
“We’re all adults and you have to know how to approach people,” she said.
Martin said most public encounters have been with people who want to see police. She recognizes that some have issues with how they encounter law enforcement.
“But either way, I would still be nice and friendly whether they want to meet me or not. Even though I have a uniform, I give them my first name and ask how can I help you,” she said.
Even though she is friendly she is also cautious.
“If you’re not afraid, you have issues. Going in somewhere fearless and not cognizant of what’s going on, you have to be cautious with every call. Even though you’re friendly and you’re bent over talking to children – kids love that and feel special – but you have to be aware,” she said.
She is part of the command team in the biggest Fort Bend County agency next to the sheriff’s department. Precinct 3 covers multiple communities including part of Houston, Sugar Land, Richmond, Katy, Fulshear, Brookshire and Stafford.
She is one of two women in Precinct 3; the other is a deputy.
“In law enforcement in general, being a female you will be the minority, it’s the way it is. In a lot of my years, I never came across the mindset of, ‘oh you’re just a girl.’ Maybe they thought it but I always felt like one of the guys.”
She graduated from the Houston Community College and later returned to teach Spanish for law enforcement to cadets from the Houston Fire Department and police cadets. She has worked for four departments in Fort Bend and Harris counties and was named sergeant Jan. 1.
Her husband is a 31-year veteran peace officer and they have two children.
“We have challenges when it comes to shift work but we make it work somehow. It’s a normalcy in our household at this point and we both love our profession,” she said.
So what would she tell a newcomer pursuing law enforcement?
“My advice to a peace officer entering into a law enforcement career would be to be absolutely positive they possess a servant’s heart,” she said. “Be aware this career has many challenges and there will be times it won’t be pleasing, however, it is rewarding and satisfying knowing you made a difference in the community. It takes a strong minded and grounded person to protect and serve.
“It’s not really about yourself. You lose family time, family functions, weekends, holidays. You have to have it in you to say, I’m going to be of service. I wouldn’t be able to do this without God,” she said.