Jan. 20, 2021
Laurel Yoshimoto (’04, M.A. ’06) never dreamed of going into law enforcement when she graduated from Biola University. She started her career as a high school Spanish teacher at Whittier Christian High School — a career she loved — and shortly after received her master’s degree in education from Biola. However, one incident changed the trajectory of Yoshimoto’s career and led her to become a deputy for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
“I always thought that I was meant for ‘something more’ … but I had no clue when I was at Biola starting my teaching career that I would have ended up in law enforcement,” said Yoshimoto.
Yoshimoto decided to join the OC Sheriff’s Department when one of her students was molested. In an interview with ABC 7, Yoshimoto noted that when she learned her student was a victim of sexual assault, she became upset and decided to enter law enforcement to protect others.
However, the decision to switch careers came with an adjustment. Yoshimoto moved from a Christian environment with an equal representation of female and male coworkers to a secular workplace in which only 11 percent of the sworn workforce are female.
“Working with non-Christians feels normal to me,” said Yoshimoto, who attended public schools until enrolling at Biola. “I definitely get some jokes and questions at work about being a Christian … but the thing is, if I do my job well and get along with my partners, no one will give me any serious issues for my beliefs.”
Yoshimoto believes that hard work and good relationships with the people around her will allow others to see her strengths as both a Christian and a woman. She knows that others may doubt her abilities because of her gender and recognizes that women have unique strengths that benefit her as a deputy.
“I never want a man to feel that he can’t trust me to back him up,” said Yoshimoto, who is the captain of the women’s competitive shooting team. “I can make a murdering male gang-banger blush and hang his head in shame at what he has done just by talking to him, where a man would only get profanity and an offer to fight …. God gave women strengths that he did not give men …. The best thing to do is to be the best woman I can.”
Yoshimoto believes God prepared her to work as a deputy throughout her life and in her education at Biola. She notes that her training at Biola’s School of Education allows her to be a better peace officer. Because of her background in education, Yoshimoto feels more equipped to communicate with others and constantly assess situations.
“Biola University’s School of Education gave me a lot of tools that I use on a daily basis,” she said. “A lot of law enforcement is based on practices that worked for the previous generations, but as criminals change, peace officers need to change too. Being an educator first helped me be a more malleable peace officer.”
Yoshimoto notes that Biola was instrumental in her spiritual development helping her know God better and through that, know herself better. She said that Biola’s Institute for Spiritual Formation, as well as various professors, allowed her to recognize how she portrayed herself to others in a way that wasn’t always true to her identity. While her education and experience as a teacher and a deputy have shaped her career, Yoshimoto’s strength in God ultimately allows her to be her best self in her line of work.
“When I, as a peace officer, stand before a criminal, keeping in mind my true sinful self and remembering that even criminals are made in the image of God, yet firmly holding to the sanctity of life and my calling to protect that life, I am a much better peace officer than when I am pretending to be some kind of Lara Croft knock-off,” said Yoshimoto.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault, please report the incident to law enforcement right away as most evidence of sexual crimes disappears at the first hand-washing, showering or within 24-72 hours. Call 911 or contact RAINN, a national sexual assault hotline, at (800) 656-2673.
Written by Angelene Wong. For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, media relations specialist, at (562) 777-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
media [dot] relations [at] biola [dot] edu