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Tyra Lara is an Influencer in Law Enforcement and Life

By Erin Ansley

UAGC Alum of the Month Tyra Lara

Tyra Lara never planned on becoming a social media influencer. Yet, the mother of three, and graduate of Ashford University* and UAGC has gained a robust following of more than 37 thousand on her Instagram page. Her feed is full of images of Tyra doing what she does best: juggling her hectic life as a patrol sergeant, mom, wife, student, educator, and traveler.

As the only female patrol sergeant at the police department in Hobbs, New Mexico (and now the only patrol sergeant to hold a master’s degree since earning her Master of Science in Criminal Justice** in 2021), the 33-year-old has made it a point to document how she maintains a healthy life balance. In doing so, she hopes to lead and inspire others to put themselves — and not just their jobs — first.

“I noticed that officers tend to put their careers ahead of everything else,” she explains. “I, too, have been there before in my career. So, I enjoy having a platform where I can share my experiences, goals, and accomplishments with those who can relate and find that possibilities are endless for them, too. I show them that it is not impossible to better yourself by going to school to obtain a degree, doing the things you enjoy, having time for your family, and having time for fitness and health, all while being an officer.”

Tyra Lara UAGC alum of the month

Tyra Lara showcases her life on Instagram to inspire others to achieve life balance while also being fit and healthy in body and mind.

Oftentimes, the personas portrayed on social media do not reflect the actual version of a person’s life. But with Tyra, she offers a genuine view into her day-to-day experiences. What’s not shown on her social media profile, however, are the struggles and obstacles she had to power through to reach the balance and success she has achieved today.

A Long Journey

Every day for several weeks, every 5-to-10 minutes of her waking hours, Tyra dropped what she was doing and hit the deck for a push-up. It was all part of her training to make it onto the police force. She began with just one push-up each time, but eventually, she would develop enough strength to easily knock out 60 reps.

In 2012, she passed the physical training test and landed her first job as a police officer. It was but one of many trials Tyra would face.

At age 18, Tyra married her high school sweetheart. Three weeks later, Tyra discovered she was pregnant with her first child. A second son would soon follow. But by age 23, after five years, the couple divorced. 

After separating from her husband, Tyra moved back to her hometown of El Paso, Texas, to live with her parents and accepted a job as a correctional officer at a prison located about an hour away. She was a young, single mother who worked 12-hour shifts for $9 an hour. It was the first real job she had, and it was not easy.

“When I got divorced, I wanted to do something in forensics, something I was interested in since a child, so I entered the criminal justice system to get training instead of going to school,” she says. “The worst part of the job was the commute,” she says, explaining that it took several hours each day.

While there, she spoke to a fellow female corrections officer who had been hired by the El Paso police department. Tyra followed her advice and began training and applying to jobs.

Although Tyra technically passed the PT test, she tore a ligament while jumping the wall in the course, and as a result, El Paso passed her up for the job. Instead, she was hired by the Hobbs, New Mexico, Police Department. 

The excitement to land the job was overshadowed by one major problem: her ex-husband did not want her to relocate with their children to New Mexico, and the judge overseeing the case agreed that the kids should remain in Texas. This set off a long and stressful custody battle that would influence many of Tyra’s career and life decisions for several years to come.

I think my story could help women who feel they can’t finish school because their lives may have changed with children and/or work. I want those women to know they have the power to do anything they set their mind to. Life happens, and life can be cruel. But we are in control of our goals and how we reach those goals.

Ultimately, Tyra accepted the position in Hobbs and left her children in Texas with her parents. Tyra attended academy for six months and then worked 12-hour night and weekend shifts as a rookie. She had the weekends off every other week, and for two-and-a-half years, when her last shift ended, whether day or night, she made the four-hour trek back to El Paso to see her children. 

“Sometimes, I don’t know how I did it,” she admits.

Tyra fought the custody issue for another year and a half but eventually gave up and relocated back to El Paso, where this time she was hired by the police department but took a $20 an hour pay cut. Although she was happy to see her children, her career was in question.

So, just before she returned to Texas in 2016, Tyra applied to college.

“I was uncertain what direction I wanted to go in, and I knew I would have to settle unless I went back to school,” she explains.

In 2018, Tyra earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal and Social Justice†. But not before moving back to Hobbs, rejoining the force, and marrying her current husband, with whom she now has one son. This time, however, Tyra was able to bring one of her two children with her (they were old enough to choose where to live, and one decided to stay behind with his father). 

“It was a lot of work,” she says. “It’s been a ride!”

Tyra Lara UAGC alum of the month

Left, Tyra poses for a graduation photo shoot after completing her MS in Criminal Justice in 2021. Right, Tyra spends time with her husband and sons.

Influence and Outreach

Through it all, Tyra has learned valuable lessons in school and in life that she has been able to apply to her career.

With the personal challenges Tyra faced, she learned that the criminal justice system isn’t perfect and, in many cases, oftentimes fails children like hers, she says. In dealing with her own situation, however, Tyra was able to have a better understanding for many of the circumstances she handles while on duty. 

“I experienced a lot of unfairness with my situation, and it allowed me to be a better officer,” she explains. “We deal a lot with domestic issues, and it helped me to have a better perspective with my job and allowed me to handle a lot of things better.”

In 2021, Tyra added a Master of Science in Criminal Justice to her credentials, and the courses she took play a vital role in her ability to guide and mentor others. 

In addition to her position as a patrol sergeant, Tyra also teaches at the police academy in New Mexico.

Often, she will share her story to illustrate the challenges officers may face when responding to a domestic dispute. 

“There is a stigma to what we perceive that to be,” she admits. “I have been on the side where I had to request visitation and pay child support. So, when we teach about people who are fighting over these issues, I want them to know the situation may not be what we expect. We have to keep an open mind. It’s easy to walk in and have a bias.”

Most recently, Tyra took on the job as primary instructor of the cybercrime block and utilizes the knowledge she gained in college to instruct the students.

“We don’t get much training in cyber unless you’re in the criminal division,” she explains. “Now that I have done it, I can take a different approach, so when guys come out, I can give them ideas on how to do investigations. It makes me feel more confident about what I’m teaching and applying to my job.”

Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges

In the beginning of her career, Tyra had to prove herself – a lot. Training and passing the PT test were just the tip of the iceberg.

As a female rookie, she was often tested by both her colleagues and perpetrators. 

“They know you are new,” she says. “They will test you to see if you will chase them if they run, and they will see if you will take control or not.”

When Tyra was promoted to patrol sergeant, she faced similar challenges. 

“Egos are very high, and there are a lot of Type A personalities,” she says. “As a supervisor, it’s been rough.”

Although Tyra won’t discourage a female or anyone for that matter from entering law enforcement, it’s not something she would encourage either. Instead, she puts it all on display on her Instagram account for people to observe and ask questions, to which she will give thoughtful and honest replies.

Online school is great because it accommodated my hectic life, and it helped me a lot.

In fact, she hopes that by seeing her profile on social media, women interested in law enforcement will reach out to her with questions.

“I’ve been through hell and back, and if I can do it, they can, too,” she says. 

Her story also demonstrates that it’s possible to get a college degree despite being a working single mom. Today, she’s even made it so she can do that, plus stay fit and travel. Tyra has made it a point to travel as much as possible and did so all while working and going to school. 

“Considering I am a police officer who works crazy schedules and has a family, I manage to make traveling a priority,” she says. “I have been to Thailand, Philippines, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Japan, and several places throughout the U.S. to name a few.”

Tyra attributes this flexible lifestyle to her online education at UAGC.

“Online school is great because it accommodated my hectic life, and it helped me a lot,” she says. “There were times I wanted to skip the assignment and accept a lesser grade so that I could get some rest after a long shift. But I pushed through and did my assignments. There were times I needed to ask for extensions due to my hectic schedule, but the instructors with UAGC were always so understanding and helped me through those tough times.”

For single moms especially, she reminds them there is an ending to it and compares the experience to being a new mom who is tired from waking up every two hours but can’t stop because she has to take care of the baby or they won’t survive. Eventually, however, that really hard part passes.

“I think my story could help women who feel they can’t finish school because their lives may have changed with children and/or work,” she says. “I want those women to know they have the power to do anything they set their mind to and that work and children should be used as motivation. Life happens, and life can be cruel. But we are in control of our goals and how we reach those goals.”

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Erin Ansley is the content manager for UAGC.

Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.

*Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus

**Successful completion of this program by itself may not qualify a student for employment with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency. 

†Successful completion of the Bachelor of Arts in Social and Criminal Justice degree by itself does not lead to licensure or certification in any state, regardless of concentration or specialization. 

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