“We’re peas and carrots,” Ingrid Ortega says, laughing. She’s talking about her fellow O’Neill Public Safety Management major Linhsey Trinh. Most who know the pair would certainly describe them as close friends—joined at the hip, even—and they don’t deny it. They try to schedule classes together and look for shifts to work together as cadets through the IU Police Department.
Together, they also plan to usher in a new generation of law enforcement officers. They admit they don’t fit the stereotype. Both women are somewhat soft-spoken. They’re also petite—Trinh is only 4 feet, 11 inches tall—though physically and mentally strong. Ortega is Mexican American; Trinh’s heritage is Vietnamese. But, for this duo, all of those reasons are exactly why they felt called to work in this field.
“The big reason why I want to go into law enforcement is to serve others and bridge the gap between law enforcement and minorities,” Trinh says. “I want to have a good relationship with my community, and I want them to see a full representation of the community within law enforcement.”
Ortega says she also chose to pursue this career so that she could help people in their times of need while also contributing to positive change.
“I wanted to be involved in the community and know that I did something to help others,” she explains. “Officers like Linhsey and myself are needed now more than ever because we are going into this profession wanting to truly help those in the communities we will serve. We also are minorities and women. This type of perspective is needed but not very common in many departments.”
The women are already doing that for the IUPUI community through their work in the IUPD Cadet Program. Ortega and Trinh were accepted into the program in August of 2019. As cadets, they work up to 10 hours a day, participating in foot patrols, Project Safe Walk, event management, and other assignments.
“If an officer gets a call, you can go with them to observe them while they work,” Trinh explains. “The best way to know the job is to experience it and hear from someone else’s personal point of view.”
Trinh attended the IUPD Academy this summer, allowing her to become a full-time police officer. She says working through COVID and the events that followed the death of George Floyd ultimately strengthened her desire to go into law enforcement.
“This summer was an eye-opener to me,” she says. “It made me want to do more and be the positive light in law enforcement. Officers like us are needed now more than ever to help build and strengthen the trust between law enforcement and the community.”
Ortega says part of the reward for her is knowing that she could help change people’s opinions on how they view law enforcement.
“I want them to get the help they need and then feel they can trust law enforcement as a result—that’s tough for some people right now,” she admits.
While the pair doesn’t fit the current mold, that’s exactly why they’re perfectly positioned to create the change that many have been demanding for decades. And both women want to ensure they’re at the forefront of the next wave of officers.
“If people can see themselves in those who are supposed to protect them, I think it makes them feel safer and more comfortable,” Trinh says. “The fact that we can be a part of that in the future is rewarding. We can definitely make a difference.”