SHE is a Barrier Breaker. SHE is Beautiful in Blue. SHE is Officer Zoila Lopez, our SHEro!
Zoila Lopez has been an officer with the Greenville Police Department for over 13 years. When she joined the force in 2004, she was the organization’s first Hispanic female officer.
Zoila Lopez’s humble beginnings trace back to November 22, 1972 when she was born in Hawthorne, California as the fourth of five children to Mexican immigrants. She spent her youth in Compton, a dangerous city south of downtown Los Angeles, an area synonymous with gangs and drug activity. Zoila learned to become independent at the age of nine, when her family unit broke apart with her parents each remarrying and leaving her to fend for herself.
At the age of 15, Zoila became pregnant with her daughter (Giselle) and soon thereafter dropped out of high school. She would later marry her high school sweet heart and have two more children: a daughter (Azaria) and a son (Josh). Unfortunately, Zoila became a single mother when her son was just two years old.
Determined to make a better life for her and her children, Zoila returned to school and earned her GED in 1994. She then remarried and had two more daughters, (Gianina and Jocelyn) while continuing to push forward, attending parenting classes and career oriented training. During this time, Zoila worked various jobs to support her family: she worked at a pig slaughterhouse, a turkey slaughterhouse, as a receptionist, a waitress, a sub preparer and many other trades.
In 2004, she decided to begin a career in law enforcement and enrolled in the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy in Columbia. Shortly before starting at the academy, Zoila found herself once again becoming a single mom as her second marriage was ending in divorce after 13 years of physical and verbal abuse. Unable to adequately care for her young children while attending the police academy, Zoila turned to her church family for help. All of her children were placed in different homes while she completed training.
For ten weeks, Zoila drove home every Friday to see her babies, then returned to Columbia on Sundays. The stress of attending the police academy began to take a toll on her physically and mentally but she continued to study and remain focused. Zoila graduated from the police academy in June 2004.
Officer Lopez’s career began on Uniform Patrol, working swinging 12-hour shifts. Her duties included responding to house and business alarms, making arrest for DUI’s, locating lost children, and defusing verbal disputes. After 13 years, Officer Lopez now works Monday through Friday and is able to stay at home at nights with her youngest daughter, who is only ten. She is currently assigned to City Hall where she is responsible for providing security and attending City Council meetings.
Outside of City Hall, Officer Lopez handles city’s Greenville Cares Program – a one-stop customer service center where citizens can report any issues or concerns. She also volunteers as a victim advocate for the police department, offering emotional support, information, and resources for victims of crimes in our area. Officer Lopez, who is fluent in Spanish, also assists with translating for victims who speak very little or no English, as well as for her fellow officers.
Officer Lopez is certified as a bike patrol Officer through (LEBA) Law Enforcement Bike Association. She also developed a new crime prevention tool to combat bicycle theft through the Bicycle Registration Program for the Greenville City Police Department.
Greenville PD recognized Officer Lopez’s love for job and humanity, and she was selected to be a part of the Crisis Negotiation Team in 2012. She was certified through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to react appropriately to situations involving mental illness, developmental disability, or emotionally disturbed persons. She has been trained to communicate with people who are threatening violence, suicide, and terrorism; including barricaded subjects, and hostage-takers. In the past five years, Officer Lopez has responded to mentally ill individuals and successfully talked several subjects out of committing suicide.
In 2016, Officer Lopez was featured on the cover of Click Magazine for their March issue titled Example of Bravery. She was also featured recognized was featured on the cover of BEyouTIFUL LATINA for the March-April 2016 issue titled Hispanics in Law Enforcement.
Despite being a single mother, Officer Lopez has raised five wonderful children and she is very proud of the adults they’ve become. Her eldest, Giselle (28), is married with two beautiful children, and is currently studying to become a nurse and serves as a translator for a dentist’s office. Azaria (26) is a very talented makeup artist who freelances and works for MAC Cosmetics. She has one daughter with her high school sweetheart, to whom she is engaged. Josh (25), who serves with the U.S. Marine Corps, is married with a handsome 1 year old son. Gianina (21) currently works as a host for a local business and is studying to follow in her older brother’s footsteps in becoming a Marine. Jocelyn (10) just finished 5th grade and enjoys singing, dancing, and creating videos.
Despite having her hands full with her own children and their growing families, for the last 2 years Zoila has been sponsoring from Bolivia through World Vision. Not only does she make a monthly monetary donation, Zoila also mails gifts to her sponsor child (Lucely Torrez) who is only 6 years old. In 2016, Zoila’s elderly neighbor became terminally ill and was unable to care for her 8 year old granddaughter, Shakariya. After her neighbor passed away, Zoila did not hesitate to take Shakariya in; making sure she was fed, made it to school on time, and that she felt the love her family had to offer. Zoila was active in Shakariya’s education, attending parent teacher meetings and awards. Shakariya now lives with her aunt but, still keeps in contact with the Lopez family.
When Zoila is off duty she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and the family dogs Rooney (a 3 year old Chocolate Lab) and Winston (a rescued 3 month hound mix). She also relaxes by going to the firing range, hiking, movies, and the lake.
Zoila Lopez is a daughter, a sister, a mother, and a police officer and she would not be where she is today if it not were for her children and her life experiences.
“God has blessed me beyond what I deserve and for that I give him thanks!” ~Officer Zoila Lopez