Grad student promoted as Wilmington Police Department's first female deputy chief

Alejandra Sotelo

After a ride-along with a Wilmington police officer in 2000, Alejandra Sotelo was hooked.

“I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be,” said Sotelo, who was an officer at the time with UNC Wilmington.

A current graduate student at UNC Pembroke, Sotelo joined the Wilmington Police Department and spent the next 19 years moving up in rank. She was recently promoted to deputy chief, making her the first female in the history of the department to hold the rank.

“It’s a huge honor,” she said. “I hope to do justice to this role and excel with everything that comes along with this opportunity.”

She also becomes the first Hispanic officer to make deputy chief. Earning a master’s degree will make her more marketable as she continues her climb up the chain of command.

She enrolled in the Master of Public Administration program in the fall of 2017.

“Getting to this level, you have to be able to present and write and the MPA program is helping me improve in these areas. This year I wrote the 2025 Strategic Plan for the agency and I was able to use the research techniques I’ve been learning in the MPA program.”

Sotelo made the 90-minute drive from her home in Wilmington to campus during her first semester, but has since completed classes online.

“My professors have been so accessible. Dr. Tracy Cooper was extremely helpful last semester. Dr. Joe West uses Microsoft web teams to communicate with his students. We talk to one another constantly so it feels the same as a classroom setting. I really love the accessibility of all my professors are. They are providing me with the tools to be successful.”

Sotelo has worked in a variety of assignments at the police department including patrol, investigations, Internal Affairs and is currently serving as the captain over planning and research which oversees, the Real Time Crime Center, training and recruiting.

As a district commander, she supervised first line sergeants, corporals, and line officers in her assigned part of the city. She will be assigned to oversee the Support Services Bureau.

“Every day is different,” she said. “You can’t plan for it–you can go from a car wreck to a domestic disturbance call. I get to help people in so many different ways. You meet them at the worst possible time of their life. I love that I’m able to make a difference. If I’m able to provide some sort of relief and bring comfort to someone, then I’ve done my job.”

A native of Texas, Sotelo has lived in Wilmington for more than 30 years. She received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from UNC Wilmington.