Pittsburg Police Sergeant Cassandra Simental has a message for the community, if you see her eating alone, feel free to come say “hello” or break bread with her.
A local girl from Pittsburg, Simental is a 15-year veteran of the Pittsburg Police Department who used her “private” Facebook page to post a message on her thoughts of being a police officer and eating alone.
The message has since gone viral on social media after a co-worker spotted the message and asked if the police department could share it on their department social media pages.
“It was not planned,” says Simental. “I was just sitting there in Togo’s and the thought after 15-years of doing this work and eating alone, you never get used to it. If I was not at work, I would not be eating alone. I like the interaction when I eat. I was sitting there one day, I see people come in, leave, there is lack of interaction and I am thinking why is there a lack of interaction between community and law enforcement. I wanted to humanize the badge a little bit to let people know we are human and also like positive interactions.”
She noted that often time’s police officers interact with people when they are in a crisis mode or in some intimate situation dealing with a problem where the interaction is intense, but says it doesn’t have to be that way all the time.
“I think the post was more trying to humanize the badge a bit and make people realize we are human. Police officers are wives, husbands, parents, and members of the community,” explained Simental. “We are human and positive words such as a simple hello remind us why we do what we do.”
Overall, Simental says she has heard nothing but positive feedback and is glad her message is getting out for law enforcement officers across the country.
“It’s been all positive, I am a little overwhelmed by it by seeing all the comments on our police department and its alarming. We do have a lot of community support that maybe officers don’t see enough of,” said Simental. “The public maybe is reluctant to approach us because maybe we look standoffish or how our posture may look. It goes both ways. But I want people not to be hesitant in approaching me, so that is why I posted it. I think officers are hyper vigilant and look safety conscious. We also lose the human side of things or connection with people because of what we deal with each day.”
For Simental, it’s opened up an idea for potentially a coffee or dinner with the community which she says would take her out of her comfort zone, but it would combat the negative rhetoric portrayed in news media sometimes—some of her “go to spots” include Togo’s, Chipolte or The New Mecca Café.
“As an officer, you are often taken out of your comfort zone. It’s what we do. But I think it’s also important to take ourselves out of the negativity and see the positive support. Talk to people in a non-stressful way. I’ve been thinking about it more and how we can better connect with the community,” said Simental. “The next time I am eating alone and if I see someone eating alone I am going to pull up a chair and ask if I can join them and just talk. Everyone has a story.”
Some of the things she is interested in learning about people is their life stories, struggles, accomplishments, travels and cultures. She admits she is generally interested in people and what they have gone through.
For Simental, she says she has gone through a lot in her time as a police officer—even becoming the first female Sergeant in the police department. However, she admits she doesn’t like the title of being labeled as a “female sergeant”.
“I don’t like to bring gender into the role of police sergeant, but there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with it that if you work hard it will pay off and anything is possible,” says Simental.
She believes in hard work and earning the fruits of one’s labor highlighting how all anyone needs is inspiration. Simental has been a member of our police department since 1997 after she started her career as a volunteer police explorer. She was was hired as a police aide and ultimately sworn in as a police officer in 2002. She has been a training officer and a detective.
“For me, my brother was my inspiration to becoming a police officer. He is also a Pittsburg officer,” explained Simental. “I would go on ride alongs with him when I was in high school and I knew I wanted to be an officer, but I wasn’t sure I could do it. He made me feel like I could do it and through hard work and perseverance I fulfilled my dream of wearing the badge.”
As a police officer and working with the community, Simental’s favorite part of the job is interacting with children and trying to be a good role model. She also enjoys being an advocate for someone in need and contributing to positive changes in people’s lives which she says is very rewarding.
She also highlights her love of Pittsburg because she is a “homegrown” officer.
“Pittsburg is a prideful community. I was raised here and I went to all the schools. We are very culturally diverse and people work hard for successes because we have a great sense of pride that comes with struggle,” explained Simental. “I wouldn’t change where I grew up. I have compassion; to this day I carry Pittsburg pride with me just as anyone else from Pittsburg does. I was a cheerleader at Pittsburg High and the saying is once a pirate always a pirate. So now I am cheering in a different role. Other officers who work here carry that pride with them as well.”
She notes that when you were raised in a community that you work in, you have a vested interest and truly want to make positive change for everyone in the community.
Simental says her post was only the beginning and that she will find more ways to engage with the community in the future because everyone is human and enjoy positive interactions.
She also has credited the police department as a whole for trying to make positive change.
“As a department, for the most part, we all have the same intentions to make positive change in the community in every situation. We are a family on a team taking care of each other. I think that carries through to the community in our work and shows in the progress over the past 15-years moving forward to make the community safer and positively impact those in their time of need,” says Simental. “There is a lot of pride in Pittsburg so it’s important Pittsburg PD is a proud department that reflects our community. I think we carry that pride and integrity well for the community. We need to reach out to each other because we are all on the same team!”