Sam Houston State University Alumna Martha Montalvo rose through the ranks of the Houston Police Department to become Chief of Staff to Chief Charles McClelland. She is the first of four Executive Assistant Chiefs tapped to fill his shoes when he is out of town.
Montalvo, who was born in Ecuador, serves as a role model for women and minorities in criminal justice.
“Anything is possible with hard work and by making sure to fit education in your career,” said Montalvo.
As a young, Hispanic woman growing up in the Canal/Navigation area of Houston, Montalvo saw the opportunity to get a good paying, exciting, and meaningful job at the Houston Police Department. “I had the opportunity to make a difference,” she recalls.
Montalvo addresses the Youth Advisory Police Council.Montalvo began her career as a street officer, and learned the art of negotiations, how to speak and listen to people, and how to resolve a wide variety of issues. Montalvo later joined investigations, where she mastered techniques to put a case together.
“Like all officers I began in the field as a patrol officer,” said Montalvo. “First responders have the authority and the responsibility to provide service to our community and are the first contacts the public has with law enforcement. This period was the foundation for my career and is the core for all police officers.”
Throughout her career, Montalvo has served in Communications, the Training Academy, Homicide, Tactical Command, Field Training and Crime Analysis/Planning and Research.
Montalvo leads a press conference to thank the Harris County District Attorney for the donation of body camera for officers.“The things I learned at the beginning of my career included listening and problem solving. These skill sets came under the philosophy of community policing, which was as relevant then as it is today.” said Montalvo.
After joining the force, Montalvo received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston Downtown. She was then offered a scholarship from the 100 Club to continue graduate studies at Sam Houston State University.
“It gave me the foundation,” said Montalvo of SHSU. “When I was there, I was a very young Lieutenant. It gave me the theories on police management and practices, and the foundation from which to further my career. Education is always valuable, and I looked upon it as a tool to improve my leadership and management skills. ”
Montalvo also valued the relationships she built with other officers from across the state at SHSU. In class, they exposed her to different ways of thinking, and an opportunity to network with professionals who shared their experiences.
Montalvo continues to work with SHSU on research projects, including the recent award winning eyewitness identification study.In 1988, Montalvo was promoted to Assistant Chief by then Chief C.O. Bradford, and in 1995 promoted to Executive Assistant under Chief Harold L. Hurt. She now serves under Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr., as the Chief of Staff, where she confers with city officials, community leaders, and various units throughout the department addressing a variety of issues.
The Houston Police Department maintains a strong research relationship with College of Criminal Justice, and Montalvo recently worked with SHSU on a study on eyewitness identification. The study was recognized to the International Association of Chiefs of Police as the top research project of the year.
“We are always going to have a relationship and partnership with Sam Houston University because it is one of the best criminal justice colleges with a long history of research. ” Montalvo said. “As a professional law enforcement agency we want to make sure we are at the forefront of best practices and that we remain one of the best police departments in the country.