Fort Worth

Fort Worth’s newest Assistant Police Chief is making history as a local ‘Super Woman’

Highest-ranking Hispanic woman at the FWPD

Assistant Chief Julie Swearingin, Fort Worth Police Department's highest-ranking Hispanic woman, tells her story.
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Assistant Chief Julie Swearingin, Fort Worth Police Department's highest-ranking Hispanic woman, tells her story.

“Come in, come in, come in,” Julie Swearingin says to us, gesturing to a couple chairs in front of her neatly organized desk.

It’s Thursday afternoon and the sun is pouring in through her office’s three large windows, warming it up.

I sit down in the chair closest to the window and I start to look around. There’s a lot to take in.

“I have a lot of gadgets,” Swearingin says, smiling.

On her desk are a handful of 3D metal and wooden puzzles, a fidget spinner, a small sand garden and a classic Newton’s Cradle.

Then our attention moves to the items proudly being displayed on the shelf behind her.

She points out the figure of Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones” riding one of her dragons. It was a gift.

“I’m the mother of dragons,” Swearingin says her friend told her.

There’s a couple “Walking Dead” figures. Beside them are two brick plaques — one for swimming 34 miles and one for competing in a 6-mile Marine obstacle course. Tucked in between is a picture of Swearingin shooting a machine gun.

“The chair is the best,” she says, walking to the back of her desk. She swivels it around to show off a flowy cape with a well-known “S” logo on the back.

“Super woman,” she says, clarifying the meaning.

On the top of Swearingin’s desk is a purple plaque describing her in two words: Boss Lady.

Back on her desk, in front of where I’m sitting, there’s a second plaque describing her in a different way: Assistant Chief.

Swearingin’s appointment to Assistant Chief of the Fort Worth Police Department was announced during the March 4 city council meeting, and the sense of humor I saw in her office was shown there.

“Yes, you can look this good and be a cop,” Swearingin said as she stepped on to the podium. She was met with laughs and cheers.

“I must not have mentioned, she’s not modest,” Chief Joel Fitzgerald said.

“And we’re glad she’s not,” Mayor Betsy Price added. “Strong women can say those kinds of things, Julie.”

‘Be it all’

Swearingin is now the highest ranking Hispanic woman ever at the Fort Worth Police Department. She’s full of girl power, strength and resilience.

So I wanted to know how she got there.

“I know a lot of people when you ask why they chose the profession of law enforcement, they have this great, moving, impactful story and I really don’t,” she said.

Swearingin didn’t dream of being a police officer when she was a kid and she never really thought about it as she grew up. She was a young mom working a handful of jobs when she met a female officer.

“She would always tell me I had an incredible way of dealing with people and asked if I would ever consider being a police officer,” Swearingin said. “To be honest, I believe this was God’s plan for me. Sometimes he puts people in a place to guide you.”

Strong woman have always seemed to help pave the path for Swearingin, who was born in Michigan and raised in Wisconsin.

“My mother moved (to Fort Worth), so that’s how I wound up in Texas,” she said. “I followed my mother. I’m a mother’s girl.”

And now she has come full circle.

The woman who was approached by a woman and urged to become a police officer is now setting examples for other women.

Swearingin often mentors groups of young people — but it’s the girls she really keeps her focus on.

“When I was a detective I spoke to a group of pregnant teens and when I spoke to them about education and setting goals, they looked at me with a look of, ‘Do you not see this pregnant belly?’ I told them my personal story of being a teen mother and the struggles I faced because of decisions I made,” she said. “I assured them that whatever is going on or has gone on in their lives does not dictate the outcome … I tell them the only obstacle is yourself. You can be strong.”

Being a strong woman means several things for Swearingin. It’s achieving goals, not letting anyone tell you you can’t do something and it’s accepting the fact that you can have everything you want in life.

“I think being a strong woman in this field, or just in general, is having a balance in your life,” she said. “When you talk about all the things I have in my office, don’t be consumed with one thing, don’t be consumed with being just a police officer, or just this. Be it all.

“I’m a mother, I’m a police officer, I’m a daughter, a grandmother, believe it or not, a sister, and all these things. That’s what makes us strong women and allows us to achieve whatever goals we set for ourselves. I think that shows when you see my office.”

And it does, from the puzzles to plaques, to pictures of her family, Swearingin’s office is a reflection of herself. One of her favorite things is a pinned bee with blue wings.

“A queen bee,” she said, much like herself.

Swearingin had her first child when she was 18 years old. Her second came three years later. She’s married and in a blended family with five kids and six grandchildren with two on the way.

“To me, of course you want to put things into perspective; God is my No. 1, my family is No. 2 always, and then of course this job,” she said.

Setting goals and crushing them

The second Swearingin was sworn in as a police officer, she knew she wanted to be promoted to the highest job possible.

On her way up, she worked a variety of roles in the department — she worked patrol, she’s been in the gang unit, special victims section and the criminal investigation division, she’s been a school liaison and has worked in the chief’s office. At one point, she was the leader of the department’s SWAT unit.

“I knew I could test up to captain, but deputy chief and assistant chief are appointment positions,” she said. “I never expected to get here ... It took a lot of work and dedication and some sacrifices but I didn’t do it alone. My success has been with the support and encouragement by the people here in this department.”

It’s an honor, she said, to be the highest ranking Hispanic woman in the department.

“I never imagined that a personal goal would amount to history being made,” she said. “I also believe with this recognition, comes a personal responsibility. That responsibility is to reach out to the community and share my story and encourage women to pursue their goals.”

To do that, she started a women’s mentorship program for all the women who work within the police department.

“We had our first meeting last month,” she said. “We had a great turnout. The purpose of the program is to be a support base for each other and help the women of the department, officers and civilians, be the best they can be.”

Although Swearingin said she’s honored to make history, she wants to be recognized for being a good officer and a strong leader.

“I can assure you, each rank I achieve came from hard work, determination and dedication,” she said. “I am one of three assistant chiefs that work for this great department and being Latina is a bonus.”

At the end of the day, Swearingin had one point she wanted to make clear.

“Women are strong and can achieve great things.”

Star-Telegram reporter Luke Ranker contributed to this report.

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.