January 23, 2024 / News

HERstory: Deanna Dotta

As we prepare to celebrate Assistant Chief Sandra Albrektsen with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2024 Women in Blue Luncheon, each week we’ll be sharing a story of a female leader at the San Diego Police Department. The “HERstory” campaign is a vibrant tribute to the Honor, Excellence, and Resilience embodied by our women in blue, shedding light on the remarkable women behind the uniform.

Which unit are you currently assigned to?

I am assigned to the nationally recognized San Diego Police Department Wellness Unit.

How many years have you served in law enforcement/public safety? 

I started in 1995 as a Police Property and Evidence Clerk.  Later, I became a Community Service Officer and had the fantastic opportunity of serving the officers and community members of City Heights for five years.  From there, I was selected to attend Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor school through the United States Navy.  I received my certification in 2006.  I began working with officers who suffered from alcohol use disorder as a collateral duty.  From the position of Community Service Officer, I was promoted to a Police Code Compliance Officer.  In 2010, I went on to join the SDPD’s phenomenal Communications Division as a 911 Dispatcher, and four years later I landed in the Wellness Unit. The past 28 years have been amazing and life-changing.  I would not change anything because in my most creative moments, I could not have created this beautiful thing called my life.

What inspired you to pursue a career in public safety? 

As a recovering alcoholic and addict, I wanted to do meaningful work, work that would allow me to give back what I have been given. I have dedicated myself to living a life of service to others.  I wish I could say I have been doing it perfectly, but I would be lying.  With that said, humility and a strong faith, the ability to see my own opportunities to address my character defects, and to realize when I have a problem with someone or something, I need to look in the mirror because I’ve learned the problem is easy to solve once I own my role in it.  I am grateful for the moments that have reinforced that I am making a difference in someone’s life every day.

What do you think women contribute to this male-dominated industry?

The inclusion of women in law enforcement brings diversity, dynamic perspectives, and a more balanced approach to addressing organizational wellness and employee development.  Women are not comfortable with the status quo and therefore create meaningful opportunities for growth in all three critical aspects of the human condition made up of the body, mind, and spirit.  I was invited to become a member of the Wellness Unit (created by the vision of a woman) in 2014 as the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor.  Understanding the relationship between the body, mind, and spirit as it pertains to wellness led me to learn about what is referred to as the bio-psycho-social approach to organizational wellness, and more specifically to officer wellness.  My emphasis remains focused on developing programs that are geared toward the people of SDPD.  Sustainable programs begin with the people they are created for.

How has the Women in Blue Initiative impacted you?

After attending the listed events, I walk away inspired and proud to be a part of an organization that is taking action to promote and develop women.

Tell us about a time when you were mentored or supported in your career. 

The most impactful women from SDPD who believe/believed in me are Retired Assistant Chief Sarah Creighton, whose vision and courage led to the creation of the Wellness Unit, and current Assistant Chief Sandra Albrektsen.  I was selected by Assistant Chief Creighton to join the Wellness team in 2014. Upon Chief Creighton’s retirement in 2017, Chief Albrektsen chose to keep me in the unit when the rest of the staff exited. These women did not discount my value as a non-sworn member of SDPD.  They sought me out and invited me into their world. Having these women value me, see me, and include me in their professional circles was then and is now transformative in my personal growth and journey.  They believed in me much more than I did myself.  Because of the opportunities given to me as a result of these two women, I am living my dream at SDPD and that is being one who helps the helpers and serves those who serve our public.

This year’s theme is HERstory; what does that mean to you?

The theme HERstory evokes a lot of emotion.  Every woman has a story, a very powerful story but so often those stories are not heard.  Each time I have been invited into a place or a moment where a sister was telling her story, it impacted me.  The impact varied from story to story, but there was always hope and strength.

Can you share an example or experience that illustrates how Chief Albrektsen’s leadership has influenced your own leadership journey?

Chief Albrektsen began impacting/influencing my life as my Sergeant at Mid-City Division in 2002.  I served as a Community Service Officer and was assigned to her squad.  We spent a lot of time talking and discussing the future.  More than once, I told her that eventually, she would be a chief at SDPD.  She would laugh and say, “no way.”  I affectionately call her Chief A now. As far as her influence, I am grateful that she showed the internal fortitude to have stayed in the mix to reach the level of Assistant Chief. Chief A has left her mark on the future female leaders of the San Diego Police Department with her strength, humor, and grace. I will always be grateful for her place along my journey.  She made a positive difference in my life.

The 13th annual Women in Blue Luncheon: “HERstory,” honors Assistant Chief Sandra Albrektsen for her remarkable contributions to the Women in Blue Initiative and over 40 years of service with the San Diego Police Department. Join us on February 27, 2024, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.

The luncheon brings business and community leaders together to recognize the achievements of female leaders in the public safety sector and to celebrate gender diversity in an occupation traditionally pursued by men. Elevating inclusion, leadership, and the empowerment of women, the initiative propels the advancement and representation of women in policing.

To register or learn more, go to womeninblue.org. To register and pay by check, download the Women in Blue Pledge Form