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The Life Of FDLE's Top Female Cop

MIAMI (CBS4) - "We see things that others don't. We see life through different eyes." Addy Villanueva is reflecting on her years in law enforcement.

"While people are asleep, we're out working trying to keep our community safe," she told CBS4's Chief Investigative Reporter Michele Gillen.

"Anyone who tells you they have never been scared is a liar. There are times when you are extremely scared because your life is on the line. "

When it comes to lady justice and fighting crime, you could can say there's a new 'top cop' in town.

"I had a lot of very good partners who taught me to be tough. Stand up for myself,"

Addy Villanueva is the first ever, female Special Agent in Charge of the Florida Department of  Law Enforcement's Southeast division.

"I believe that this is, to me, the most wonderful position. I never expected to be here, though, I worked hard for it. "

Gillen met up with Villanueva at target practice. There, Villanueva shared her vision of tackling crime.

"I'm very passionate. I'm the ultimate optimist. I push my agents. I haven't been let down yet," she told Gillen.

The FDLE's top female cop in South Florida also talked about cracking glass ceilings.

"The law enforcement world wasn't made for me. You look back historically, it wasn't made for women. We sort of adjusted the world so we can fit in it."

And what a fit. She stands  just 5 feet tall. Carrying her through years of dangerous undercover police work, in bars, drug dens, and the mean streets, her physical stature seemed dwarfed by her resolve. It began the first day she entered the police academy.

"That was it. I fell in love."

At the FDLE, she leads a force of  nearly a hundred and is taking aim at public corruption, economic and  cyber crimes, particularly those against children.

"That's probably one of our biggest focuses right now," she confessed.

And children are near to her heart. Villanueva is the  mother of two girls and a boy, and  balances target practice with their ballet classes and basket ball tournaments.

"It's mom, the taxi!" she claimed.

It's all made possible she said, thanks to the best partner in the world... her husband, who just happens to be a lieutenant with the Miami-Dade police department.

" A great officer, great father, excellent husband. Works with the home invasion unit. So my poor children have danger on both sides," noted Addy.

The two met on assignment. It was one of the many nights that brought her face-to-face with drug dealers , pimps and money launderers. She pointed out a picture of the first million dollars she helped to recover.

Gillen asked her, "Was your heart racing?"

"Heart racing, nail-biting, you could just imagine what it is to deal with either a known drug dealer or a money launderer not something that is easy to do," she replied.

"Do you ever fear when you walk into a place that in those eyes of yours they see a cop?"  asked Gillen.

" I think that was one of my assets was that they didn't see a cop and that's what really separated me from your everyday undercover agent. That because of my height and my look, they didn't  see a police officer and that was my asset," explained Villanueva.

"Some of them would probably say that you were beguiling and kind of perhaps threw some of the criminals off?" Gillen commented.

" I think so. And I think that's also what kept me safe," Addy replied.

But for her height, her life might have been very different. Her teenage dream growing up in Miami was to take to  the skies as a Pan Am stewardess.

"I'm five feet. I think at the time, you had to be, minimum five-seven or something like that. I was crushed. But it was a blessing because here I am today," said Addy.

It's a position she said she's earned because of her parents, who fled communist Cuba, and who, despite their worries over her safety, taught her to never be a quitter.

"Mid-way through the police academy, I was having the weapons and I came home one day really frustrated because I had never held a gun in my life and it wasn't easy for me. My mother cried for about two weeks when I told her I was becoming a law enforcement officer and said well, you started it, you're going to finish.  And that's all it took," said Addy.

Now she looks forward, thinking of those behind her. "It's so important to me, not just what happens now, but what happens after I leave."

At the end and the start of the day... her priority is safety.

"I'm not just responsible for everyone who works here, but for their families as well. I've got to make sure that at the end of the day they go home," insisted Villanueva.

"Just as your kids are waiting for you," commented Gillen.

"Exactly," said Villanueva.

She can't help but hope to make a difference for all her colleagues, all the while opening doors for the next generation of officers who happen to be women.

"Law enforcement has come a long way. I'm very happy about the way it is moving forward. Back then, you might have a handful of women in the police academy, now you're seeing a larger number," said Villanueva. "I still believe there's a long way to go."

"Do you hope that you, sitting in this chair, might open a window to other women?"  asked Gillen.

"I see it that way. I see it as opening the door to those women behind me. I had doors open for me and I thank those women who went through tough times and women went through those tough times and because of them we're here today and it's not as difficult at all," Addy said. "So I hope somebody takes something positive out of my position."

"Doesn't matter the sex, doesn't matter the height," Gillen inquired.

"All that matters is the will."


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