As a student-athlete at Northern Arizona University, Lacey Tolbert competed at a high level. During a four-year career, Tolbert became the first player in school history to log 300 points and 100 assists in a season. Tolbert, who was twice an Academic All-District selection, was also honored for her excellence in the classroom and on the court when she was named the Golden Eagle Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2004. When it came time to find a career after graduation, Tolbert chose a path of service, and chose to join the Glendale, Arizona, police department. All the work she put into excelling as a student-athlete, she says, helped prepare her for life as a public servant.
"Now that I am a police officer, it is almost as if my basketball career was preparing me for it," she says. "I am very grateful for my playing experience because it made me so much better at what I do now—from my communication skills to my work ethic. There is something to be said for playing at a high level, and how that translates into other areas of life."
According to Tolbert, the choice to become a police officer wasn't necessarily an easy one. After years of pursuing her basketball dreams, she thought initially about becoming a coach. But Tolbert, who graduated with a BS in criminal justice, kept returning to two key thoughts: that law enforcement suited her, and that she wanted to give back to the community from which she had come.
"I always came back to wanting to be a police officer. I (did) some ride-alongs (before joining) and thought it was right up my alley," says Tolbert. "I had also grown up in Glendale, so it was a natural fit for me to go back there. I wanted to give back to the community that raised me."
Five years after joining the force, Tolbert currently works with a specialty unit called the Neighborhood Response Squad, which specializes in working with drug-related issues. Though Tolbert's work often puts her in difficult situations, she says she enjoys every aspect of her job.
"I love that I am not tied to a desk," she says. "My work is different and exciting every single day. I work with really great people. There are so many different areas that you can work to help make things better. Some people do not see that, but we are really out there making a difference."
Though the nature of Tolbert's work often brings her into direct contact with some of the darker parts of society, she says she focuses on the positive results. As a police officer, she says her job is to help people through their lowest moments—even if they may not realize that they're being helped. And, Tolbert says, her ability to compete at the highest levels on the court and in the classroom helped equip her for a job that places intense stress on officers.
"The majority of people are not equipped to handle the emotional strain that the job puts on people," says Tolbert. "I am a police officer, and I have a special respect for my fellow officers because we are willing to do things that most people are not willing to do."