Long Beach State

FEATURE: Former Long Beach State Athletes Dedicated To LAPD Service

Long Beach State alums Ruby Flores and Gerald Woodyard became the change they wanted to see in law enforcement. Both former student athletes had unfortunate experiences with the Los Angeles Police Department, and 26 years later they’re both LAPD commanders.

“I was treated horribly,” Flores said. “I felt like I was treated as a suspect and not with the professionalism I would expect from an officer.”

Flores, 50, was an elite softball pitcher at LBSU who earned 1992 Western Region Woman of the Year honors. She also threw a perfect game while leading the Beach to the postseason.

“She’s just a special person,” LBSU softball coach and fellow alum Kim Sowder said of Flores. “She was my roommate and a great teammate. It’s so cool to see someone that has such a big heart be so fierce at the same time.”

As a criminal justice major, Flores had high hopes of joining the FBI or Secret Service. But two chance encounters convinced her to make the unpopular choice and become a police officer in 1994.

“Cops were hated at that time,” Flores said. “I wanted the challenge and wanted to treat people right.”

The Accident

Flores now knows how unfairly she was treated when she was part of an unforgettable car accident.

A 21-year-old Flores was driving alone at night on a secluded road when a collision flipped her car over. Flores was helplessly hanging upside down.

“My seat belt locked and I was stuck,” Flores said. “I thought nobody would find me. Then I heard a voice say, ‘My name is Mark, and I’m here to help you’.”

A bystander who called the police when she saw the accident testified that the man talked to Flores and then took off all of his clothes before getting into the car on the passenger side.

“He assaulted me and tried to rape me,” Flores said. “I fought him off with an umbrella.”

The man stole Flores’ backpack and fled to nearby bushes as the police arrived. They quickly found him hiding and arrested him. However, Flores remembers being treated like a criminal when the officers questioned her.

“There were female officers that responded, and knowing what I know now, I was not treated well,” Flores said. “That was the most disappointing part. Now I take pride in being an officer who can talk to some of these female victims and educate them on being aware of their surroundings.”

The Blind Date

A few years later while at LBSU, Flores and her sister Nora were going a double date with some friends from the dorms. However, Nora got stood up. She angrily stomped down to the dorm payphone where Gerald Woodyard was talking to friends from home.

“(Nora) was actually kind of rude,” Woodyard said. “And I was kind of rude back. I said ‘I’m gonna be on the phone as long as I want to be on the phone.’ So I go back up to my dorm and she was in my room. We had the same friends. We ended up going to the movies, started dating, and we’ve been married for 26 years.”

Woodyard played football at LBSU for legendary coach George Allen and was also a criminal justice major. The wide receiver was the one who convinced Flores to apply for a job with the LAPD because he also wanted to change the department from the inside after his own negative experience.

“I was actually going to church with one of my friends,” Woodyard recalled. “We were in suits and everything when we got pulled over. They didn’t have a good reason for the stop. Instead of getting mad, I joined the LAPD. Law enforcement wasn’t popular at that time. There was a disconnect between the African American and Hispanic communities and law enforcement.”

The Teammates

Woodyard and Flores applied for jobs with the LAPD together and helped each other study while getting prepared for the academy.

After quickly climbing the ranks, Flores is a currently a Commander training new officers, and Woodyard is a Commanding Officer of the Community Engagement Group.

“I want to help officers treat other people right,” Flores said of staying with the LAPD.

Both Woodyard and Flores said that playing sports at LBSU better prepared them for their careers in law enforcement.

“I’ve met a lot of former athletes in the department,” Woodyard said. “I think specifically those who played a team sport are used to giving of themselves. There’s obviously stars on every team, but the team is not one person. It’s the same in law enforcement.”

Flores has been a constant supporter of the LBSU softball program. She even has a sponsored locker in the new clubhouse. Each one has an inspirational quote and Flores chose, “You didn’t just get here to get here.”

“I thought ‘What would I have wanted someone to tell me as a freshman walking into that field’,” Flores said. “It’s a level of self awareness. We have to compete every day.”

PODCAST: LB Fee Show On Voluntary Workouts & Academic Advising Changes

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.