2006 SHARPSHOOTER AWARD
Sacramento State Police Officer Thelma Matthews received the University’s 2006 Top Gun Sharpshooter Award in July, after achieving the highest target shooting score among all campus police participants. Four times a year, the Public Safety Department conducts firearms training at the Folsom Prison Range, where accuracy over three possible targets is measured at distances of from 75 feet to 9 feet.
The California State University (CSU) qualifies officers to carry firearms through quarterly skill and competency tests such as this. Once a year, an award is presented to the officer with the highest accuracy rate. According to Chief of Police Kenneth Barnett, “Matthews’ award demonstrates her dedication and enthusiasm for being the best she can be. Matthews is a dedicated professional who always tries her best and strives to do the right thing. Dedication and determination are her trademarks.”
Matthews came to Sac State from San Joaquin County, where she worked for three years as a corrections officer in the County Jail. She trained to become a police officer at Yuba College, graduating in 2002. Prior to that, Matthews studied and practiced medicine in Mexico, after graduating in 1986 with a medical degree from the University of Mexico. When she came to the U.S. in 1989, Matthews spoke no English. She and her children learned together by reading books and magazines and listening to the radio.
Now that Matthews has two college-aged sons, she can do what she wants, and that happens to be police work. As a law enforcement officer, she wants to give back to a country that, she feels, has given her so much. And, having raised two teenagers, she is concerned about the safety of young adults. What better place to be than a university campus. Matthews hopes to encourage young people to step up to the challenges facing them, because “when you do, the impossible happens.” Chief Barnett says Matthews lives her philosophy. “She takes the law enforcement profession seriously, and is always looking for ways to improve her skills and abilities.”
Matthews is most satisfied when helping people. Here at Sac State that means interacting with the campus community to help resolve problems. But the most important aspect of her job, she says, is teamwork. When she goes home at the end of the day, she wants to be sure that her colleagues go home too. To broaden her capacity to help, Matthews is training to become a certified Emergency Medical Technician. As a former physician, she is pleased to be able to apply her skills when situations call for medical assistance.
As a female in a male-dominated profession, Matthews hopes that one day Sac State’s police force will have more female officers. According to Matthews, “When doing something you like so much, you need to think about building a legacy.” With that in mind, she wants to be a role model for females (old and young), demonstrating that they can do the job just as well as males.
Vice President Stephen Garcia, the University administrator responsible for the police function, says, “Officer Matthews exemplifies the quality of officers and professionals on our police force at Sac State. Please join me in congratulating her on receiving the Top Gun Award, a real achievement in this profession.”
Matthews holds the distinction as Top Gun until July 2007.