GCU degree is one of Burgett’s badges of honor
By Laurie Merrill
During her dizzying career with the Phoenix Police Department, Commander Lauri Burgett has fought her share of crimes — but one of her favorite roles is talking to the public about it.
After becoming a police officer in 1987, Burgett became the department’s first woman public information officer in 2001, a post she held until 2006. It was a position in which she found herself giving interviews to media around the world.
Burgett’s career has continued its ascent. Today, with 29 years of police experience, many awards and numerous expert certifications under her belt, she is commander of the Community Relations Bureau and oversees 175 officers. But she still counts earning her 2002 bachelor’s degree in Public Safety Administration from Grand Canyon University as one of her proudest achievements.
“It was a personal goal,” Burgett said. “Getting a bachelor’s degree was something I wanted to accomplish, and it was something I needed to move ahead.”
With a father in the military, Burgett and her family had moved frequently during her childhood, making it difficult to maintain attachments and nurture friendships.
That all changed when, in 1980, her family moved to west Phoenix and she entered Glendale’s Independence High School as a freshman. Burgett’s roots grew so deep that she has been firmly planted ever since and is now raising her own family there.
“I decided I had moved a lot of places and I wanted to be stable,” she said.
There were few women on the police force when Burgett applied at age 20. Influenced by her father’s military career, she was drawn to the police department’s paramilitary structure.
Among Burgett’s most notable assignments were the Public Information Office, Violent Crimes Bureau, Drug Enforcement Bureau and the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy.
She created the Home Invasion Kidnapping Enforcement (HIKE) unit, establishing an intelligence network that consults with Belgium, Mexico, Canada and London’s New Scotland Yard.
But her most high-profile role was as the public information officer, especially when the Catholic bishop of Phoenix was arrested and charged in a fatal hit-and-run accident in 2003. “I actually did international interviews on that story, it was such a big deal,” she said. One of the calls was from Italy because of the Vatican.
Burgett was working nights when she enrolled in the bachelor’s degree program and attended classes on a campus that was much smaller than it is today.
“I loved going,” Burgett said. “You have to be your best person. I am forever grateful. I’ve learned in every role in the police department how important it is to have an ability to communicate with the world.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.