LOGAN — Wednesday wasn’t just the first day on the job for new Logan City Police Officer Leticia Johnson, it was a dream 23 years in the making. The new patrolwoman battled inequality, poverty and cancer, but admits there’ve been days she never thought she’d get the chance to dawn the blue uniform.
Johnson was born in Mexico, living there for five years before moving to America. The desire to be a police officer began as she witnessed the way her family was treated and not respected.
“It just triggered this need,” said Johnson. “I wanted to protect people who are dealing with things like this. Someone who might think they don’t have a voice and they are not being heard, or that it doesn’t matter.
“I wanted to try and make a difference, and show that it does matter. There are people who care and want to help.”
Johnson moved to Hyrum when she was 6-years-old, where she continued to feel isolated without being able to speak English. The dream of being in law enforcement persisted, though, as she attended schools, graduated from Mountain Crest High School and set her sights on college. Before she could enroll in the police academy though, she had to spend three years to obtain her citizenship.
In October 2018, the dream began to feel like it was within reach as Johnson was finishing the Weber State University Police Academy and was hired by the Logan City Police Department. All she had left to do was complete a doctor’s physical. It was after that exam that she felt like her life completely stopped, when her doctor called her with the news that she had cancer.
“It was my doctor’s personal cellphone number and I just knew he did not have good news, because he was also on vacation during that time. I picked up the phone and said I didn’t want to talk to him. He said, ‘I’m sorry, your tests came back and you have breast cancer.’”
Doctors diagnosed Johnson with Stage Two Invasive Carcinoma, an aggressive and fast spreading cancer. They immediately started six months of chemotherapy, followed by six weeks of radiation.
Johnson lost her hair and strength, feeling like her dream of being a police officer was squashed at that point. She thought she would be let go by the department, since she wouldn’t be able to accomplish the job they had hired her to do.
“I went into the police station with my husband to speak with my sergeants. I told them, I wanted to work but if they couldn’t keep me I understood. I was shocked when they said I was a part of the family and wasn’t going anywhere. They just told me to focus on getting healthy.”
The police department began raising money for Johnson. Officers donated money for the chance to grow beards and dispatch operators held a snack fundraiser. Employees also gave up some of their vacation and sick leave, so it could be used by her when she didn’t have the energy to do office work.
Earlier this month, Johnson met with her surgeon and learned that an upcoming procedure was being postponed indefinitely because of the threat of COVID-19. They told her, though, that since the operation was not critical and she had made a full recovery, they were going to clear her for patrol duty.
Johnson said even after getting the okay from doctors, she was still afraid to get her hopes up. She met with her police supervisors and suspected that they would tell her she still needed to wait longer.
“My supervisor told me, ‘you are going on patrol,’” explained Johnson. “I couldn’t believe he was serious. This warm feeling ran through my body. I realized that this was finally it. I am going to do it. As I looked in the mirror this morning while putting my uniform on, I realized my dream was finally happening.”
Wednesday, Officer Johnson began patrol after an 18 month battle with cancer, including five surgeries. The mother of three children had finally achieved her 23 year old dream.