Hometown hero honored for trailblazing achievements

Posted: March 24th, 2017 | Features, News, Top Stories | No Comments

By Margie M. Palmer

Longtime La Mesa resident and newly-promoted San Diego Police Department Assistant Chief Sandra Albrektsen has always known she’s wanted to live a live a life of service.

Her father served in the U.S. Navy, she said, and her mom spent countless hours engaged in military-related volunteerism.

“When I reflect back I can see that had a huge influence on me. I didn’t know it at the time, because everyone was always giving back in my household, but I must have picked that up from [my parents],” Albrektsen said. “I always knew I had a big interest in law and the criminal justice system and I shaped my desire to give back around that.”

SDPD assistant chief Sandra Albrektsen and (left) and Chief Shelly Zimmerman (Courtesy of San Diego Police Foundation)

Starting early

The newly promoted Assistant Chief of Police has followed a somewhat unconventional career path; her tenure with the SDPD began in 1985, when she was just 16 years old.

“When I was in high school I wound up going down to 202 C St., where all the jobs were posted, and I saw a listing for a part-time position in the Crime Analysis Unit. I was still in high school but I applied and was lucky enough to get it,” she said. “It really changed my life from that point on.”

It was onward and upward from there.

Albrektsen transferred into the Police Academy in 1990; she was promoted to sergeant just six years later. Since that time, she’s served as a patrol lieutenant and Regional Public Academy Director.

Currently, Assistant Chief Albrektsen is an investigative captain overseeing Narcotics, Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, Sex Crimes, Sex Registrants, Vice, Human Trafficking, and the Narcotics Task Force. She frequently represents the SDPD in recruiting efforts, teaches extended studies classes at many local colleges and has been an academy instructor for the last 20 years.

Her academic achievements include a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a master’s degree in Public Administration from San Diego State University.

A rich and vibrant career

When asked what she feels have been her greatest professional accomplishments, humility shined through.

“I’ve delivered a few babies, some of which I’m still in contact with. I’ve given CPR and saved someone’s life,” Albrektsen said. “I also worked as a community relations officer for a couple of years and I spent that time really connecting with the community. Those moments in time have been beneficial to all of my assignments, because I really connected with and understood people’s fear of crime. Hearing people talk about being afraid to go out at night, I never forgot that lesson.”

And despite her more than 30 years of service, she was completely taken aback to learn she’d be honored during the San Diego Police Foundation’s annual Woman in Blue Luncheon.

Sara Napoli, president and CEO of the San Diego Police Foundation, said that Women in Blue puts leadership, wisdom and inspiration in the spotlight.

“The stories of women leaders in law enforcement continue to impart wisdom that is both inspiring and practical, providing role models for young people aspiring to leadership in law enforcement. It is an honor for the San Diego Police Foundation to be able to recognize the tremendous work of these deserving law enforcement professionals,” she said.

The luncheon took place on March 1 at the Marriot Marquis in San Diego. Attendees heard the stories of Assistant Chief Albrektsen, Homeland Security Investigations Supervisory Special Agent (SSA), Aida Vasquez; and Police Dispatch Administrator, Roxanne Cahill, whose outstanding achievements in non-traditional careers have paved the way for today’s women leaders in San Diego.

Albrektsen said it was an honor to be able to represent all the women who came before her.

“The award has only been around for a few years now and for me, it’s a huge honor because even though I was recognized as an individual, I was able to represent all the women who came before me and mentored me.”

In terms of what lies next, Albrektsen said she plans to fully immerse herself in her new role.

“I always want to take something that’s good and push the limit on it, push the envelope and push it north,” she said. “I ask how can we take this, and go farther and how can we do more. When I leave this position, I want to leave it better than it was when I got there. I want to be able to move things north and be a positive influence.”

—Margie M. Palmer is a freelance writer who has been racking up bylines for over a decade. Reacher her at

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