February 15, 2024 / News

Rita Olson Scholarship Recipient 2024

The Rita Olson Legacy Scholarship was awarded to Detective Kelly Thibault-Hamill, a rising SDPD female leader, to support her educational and training pursuits. This scholarship represents Rita Olson’s desire to support the cause of public safety for generations to come.

What inspired you to pursue a career in law enforcement/public safety? 

I became interested in law enforcement after taking a class in college taught by retired FBI Agent Tyrone Powers. I began taking more criminal justice and sociology classes, which I felt were
intriguing and seemed to be the only subjects that interested me. In 1999, I moved to San Diego and finished my Bachelor’s Degree online via the University of Maryland University College. In 2004, I was hired by the San Diego Police Department.

Tell us about your career journey with SDPD.

The first female Sergeant I worked for was Sgt. Sandra Albrektsen at Mid-City Division, and I revered her command presence. After field training, I was assigned to the Western Division, where I worked Patrol and the Street Crimes Unit. I was proactive in the field and worked hard to prove myself to fellow officers. My Captain was Sarah Creighton (Asst. Chief, retired), and one of my Sergeants, Misty Cedrun (Lt., retired), became my first mentor in the department. In 2009, she encouraged me to take an acting detective position at Vice. I was assigned to the Human Trafficking team, where I was fortunate to work for Sgt. Bill Woods. I was promoted to Detective in 2010. In 2011, I transferred to the Domestic Violence Unit. Within 7 months, I was offered a position in the Sex Crimes Unit by Lt. Anastasia Smith (Captain, retired). In 2013, I transferred to the Child Abuse Unit, where I sought justice for the most innocent and vulnerable of victims. After my son was born in 2015, I transferred to Eastern Division Investigations, where I was fortunate to work with another mentor, Lt. Andra Brown (Lt., retired). In 2019, I transferred back to the Child Abuse Unit and joined the Homicide Relief list.

I always felt the Homicide Unit was the pinnacle of Investigations, but was concerned about the demanding on-call schedule as a parent. In December of 2020, Sgt. DeCesari of Homicide Team 1
asked if I was interested in working Homicide full-time. I was honored to be asked to be part of Team 1. Once I identified a homicide suspect on a case, I was sold on going to the unit. In April of 2021, I was officially transferred to Homicide Team 1. It’s not always easy being a parent and a homicide detective who’s on-call half the year. But, with an amazing command and my husband Tim’s support, I get to have my dream job. I have been blessed to work for and with some of the best peace officers and civilians, who have taught me so much, and I’ve gained a wonderful group of supportive female friends along the way.

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

Women and men bring different attributes to law enforcement. I think some victims might feel more comfortable disclosing personal information to a female than a male, particularly in cases of molestation/sexual assault. Some women are more detail-oriented, and bring a different perspective to analyzing or handling a situation.

How has the Women in Blue Initiative (WLLE scholarships, SDPD’s Annual Women’s Hiring Expo, Women In Blue Luncheon, SDPD’s Quarterly Women’s Leadership Conference, SDPD’s Peer Mentoring Program) impacted you?

I think the Women In Blue Initiative empowers women in law enforcement and encourages them to support one another, rather than compete with one another. I have left the women’s
conferences feeling better about myself, more confident, and wanting to help my fellow female colleagues and uplift them.

Tell us about a time when you were mentored or supported in your career. How has this experience shaped you?

Sgt. Misty Cedrun (Lt. retired) was my first true mentor in the department. She encouraged me to take an acting detective position in Vice when I wasn’t keen on participating in details. I was fortunate to have been assigned to the Pimping Team and worked for Sgt. Bill Woods (retired) and with detectives like Chappie Hunter, Marc Jose, Mo Day, Nick Kelbaugh and Mark Haas, who taught me a lot about investigations and made the sometimes not-so-fun job, fun. I was able to talk about a successful pimping investigation involving minors during my Detective Promotional Interview and I think that helped me to get promoted. Misty continued to mentor me throughout my career. I could call her when I was struggling with a career decision and she gave me sound advice and prayed with me. I will always be thankful for her mentoring me.

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

HERstory means we all have a unique story; We all come from different backgrounds, walks of life, and experiences that make us who we are. You never know what someone is dealing with
outside of work or the struggles they have overcome to be where they are. I always wanted to be a Homicide Detective, but wasn’t sure I could juggle the on-call time, as a mother of a young
child. However, with support from my husband, Tim, and my command, I make it work.


The 13th annual Women in Blue Luncheon: “HERstory,” honors Assistant Chief Sandra Albrektsen for her remarkable contributions to the Women in Blue Initiative and 41 years of service with the San Diego Police Department.

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.