Ruby Flores came to the Beach with the expectations of one day swapping out her black and gold uniform for a blue one.
Flores, who graduated from Long Beach State in 1992 with a degree in criminal justice, is now a commander with the Los Angeles Police Department.
The former Beach softball pitcher credits her experience from playing at the CSULB with preparing her for the rest of her career.
“The whole philosophy of teamwork and the value of working hard is knowing nothing is guaranteed or even predictable in the game of softball,” Flores said. “That has really been my driving leadership philosophy too as a leader in the LAPD.”
While at CSULB, Flores helped lead the Beach to three Women’s College World Series appearances. She holds the records for fifth in all-time lowest ERA in school history and 10th in all-time wins with 48.
“She was a fierce pitcher, a really fierce competitor,” said former teammate Christine Sison. “She threw a crazy knuckleball. I’ve never seen a knuckleball like hers before. She’d throw up a ball and you could see the seams coming at you, wobbling all over the place.”
In her time playing for the Beach, Flores accomplished two of the rarest feats achievable on the mound. In 1990, she threw a no-hitter against Northwestern University. A year later, she topped that performance pitching a perfect game versus New Mexico State University.
When Flores was pitching the game of a lifetime in her third-year, the team knew not to say a word in hopes of not jinxing the possibility of her throwing a perfect game.
“You could just feel the tension and the excitement,” Flores said. “I tried not to focus on the outcome, but just really focus on the experience and the journey to get there.”
The pressure that stems from being a student athlete is not much different than what a police officer deals with, Flores said. In softball, situations can change at a moment’s notice, similar to how a call can go wrong for an officer.
Kim Sowder, CSULB softball coach and Flores’s former teammate, knows just how pitching prepared Flores for the rigorous duty of being an officer.
“I think her calm, cool demeanor is what makes her so good at what she does in those pressure situations. You’d never see her panicked,” Sowder said. “I’m sure being in sports and being in those pressure situations, you’re taught to control what you can control and keep breathing and stay calm.”
Flores felt determined to make a difference within the community as an officer, as she felt that the skills she learned on the field would help to elicit change within the police department.
“I knew the skill sets I had as a pitcher, my mental preparation and my physical preparation. I knew that it was going to help me get through it,” Flores said. “I knew that I wanted to be on the best team in law enforcement, which is the LAPD. I knew that I was coming onto the department to instill change, and really contribute to my community.”
Flores’ decision to become a police officer was not popular amongst her friends and family.
She believes that she has made a positive impact on the community to help change the perception of law enforcement.
“When I came on the job in 1994, it was post Rodney King,” Flores said. “The city was not the biggest fan of law enforcement, [the police] had a horrible reputation.”
With tensions at an all-time high even to this day between communities and the police, Flores understands that there is work to be done to enact change in society.
“I hope that people would be willing to come to the table and talk to us,” Flores said. “We do have to have those tough conversations with our adversaries, so that we can talk about it, and recognize our differences. How can we work together and how can we become the police department they want to see?”
Flores has partnered with an east LA-based nonprofit organization, “Prom Dresses to Give,” which gathers new and used prom dresses for girls who are unable to purchase one themselves.
“I always go in uniform to the event,” Flores said. “Because I do think it’s important that the young girls see someone that looks like them in uniform and in a leadership position within the department.”
Flores said that she makes sure she goes out of the way to “humanize the badge.”
“You know, I’m a mother. I’m a woman that’s just trying to make a living,” Flores said. “We do have more in common than you think we do. I think it comes down to treating people right and holding ourselves accountable when we don’t get it right.”
Flores achieved the status of commander and is one of four high-ranking women in a 13,000-person department. Early in her career, Flores felt as if one the first commendation reports she received was because she was a female.
Newly graduated from the academy, Flores and her training officer located a stolen vehicle with the suspect still in the car. After a short pursuit of the vehicle, the suspect began jumping fences and running through homes to escape the officers.
While in pursuit of the suspect, Flores’ training officer looked back to notice she had kept up all along. She recalled him turning around and saying, “Oh, you’re still here?”
“I was cognizant of the fact that I’m a woman,” Flores said. “They’re looking to see me fail. They’re looking to see what my weaknesses are going to be. And that’s what caused me to work even harder to prove otherwise.”
Being able to prove to her superior officers that she was capable of holding her own, Flores said, gave her the reassurance she needed to feel like she belonged in law enforcement.
“It’s not about the end road, but it’s about the journey,” Flores said. “It’s a journey to success and always pushing yourself to that next level.”