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Meet the new -- and first female -- police chief at the University of North Texas

Ramona Washington never expected to become a police chief, but now that she's been named on, she hopes her story can inspire others like her.

DENTON, Texas — The University of North Texas has a new police chief, and she's the first female head of law enforcement in school history.

"I absolutely never imagined I would be a chief," Ramona Washington said on Monday. "I’m very excited to step into this role."

Washington steps into the role in a time when all eyes are on school safety. Only two months ago, three students were killed in a shooting at Michigan State University. Less than a year ago, 19 students and 2 teachers were killed on an elementary school campus in Uvalde.

In a sit-down interview with WFAA, Washington said she knows the safety of 44,000-plus people now depends on her performance. Already, she told us, she's eyeing ways to improve her department's efforts there.

"One of the things I think is lacking is our incident command," Washington said. 

While Washington told WFAA that she believes her officers are well-trained to confront an active shooter on campus, she said she believes they can do a better job strategically placing other officers to handle things like traffic or reunification centers as a crisis unfolds.

"We need to make sure we’re prepared not just for the scene, but also the other parts that go into that," Washington said of her hopes to improve incident command. 

She has other goals, too. According to Washington, only three percent of women officers nationwide serve in executive ranks. And just 12 percent of all officers, she said, are women. It's a point of pride for her, then, that Washington reports that UNT's police department is 15 percent female -- "and my goal is 30 percent by 2030," she said.

Washington became a police officer as a young mom without much money. She was also the first in her family to go to college. And, she'll tell anyone who'll listen, she proudly attended the school she'll now sworn to protect and serve.

Now, she said she hopes her story inspires others like her -- "women, minorities, mothers, people who are flat out poor," she said.

Washington said she has lots of priorities to tackle upon starting her new role, chief among them making sure her officers are taken care of.

"We don’t have very many people signing up to do this job anymore," she said. "So, we need to make sure, for the people who do show up and do it, that we’re taking care of them."

Washington also said she hopes to improve her officers' relationships with the community on and around the Denton school's campus.

"I would love for more people to have a desire to get to know us and know that we are human," she said. 

Washington's first official day on the job as UNT's police chief will arrive on June 1. 

"It’s a huge responsibility," she said. "It’s not taken lightly."

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