After 32 years on the Tyler Police force, Sandra Nauls-Mast is retiring this week. But she doesn’t plan to sit still for long.
“I’m not going to stay retired,” she said. “I’m too young.”
Officer Nauls-Mast, 59, moved to Tyler in the sixth grade. She went to Texas Women’s University in Denton to study fashion illustration and photography and after graduating, moved back home and worked in retail, as a photographer for the Tyler Morning Telegraph and in the media department for Tyler Independent School District.
Officer Nauls-Mast saw a job opening for a civilian crime scene photographer for the Houston Police Department but didn’t get the job. She checked out the Tyler Police Department for a similar position, but after learning she would have to be a police officer first, she said “No way!” That was until recruiter Willy Johnson convinced her to try it, she said.
She became a Tyler police officer in 1981, with the hopes to apply for a crime scene photographer once there was an opening. But shortly after becoming a patrol officer, she worked in crime prevention and enjoyed it, she said.
She also was recruiting and doing background checks for new officers, she added.
When Officer Nauls-Mast was hired, along with Sherry Neal, they didn’t realize they were going to be the first female black officers at the department until they showed up in the chief’s office and the Tyler Paper was there for the story, she said.
Just being female, there were some officers who didn’t believe there should be women police officers, she said.
“It was a transition,” she said. “It just started changing slowly” through the years.
She said there were no black women officers when she started her career, and it was a big change in the community.
“They’re not sure how to take you,” she said. “A lot of people after the initial shock, they were understanding.”
Residents began trusting her and feeling comfortable talking to her, calling her at home to ask questions or for assistance and came to her with their problems.
As a crime prevention officer, Officer Nauls-Mast conducted crime prevention programs for adults and children, including Neighborhood Crime Watch, Child Safety programs, and Security Surveys for homes and businesses.
She served as a STAR officer in elementary schools and as the public information officer for the Tyler Police Department.
She also helped organize the city’s first National Night Out.
She served as minority community relations officer, assisting in organizing the first Tyler Police Minority Advisory Committee and conducted monthly meetings.
She helped research and organize the first Tyler Police Department Storefront; she served as a liaison between the minority community and the department; and assisted in organizing the Pastor’s Network, which is now known as Tyler Church and Community Network. She served as a Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) officer in local elementary and junior high schools, and trained as a child safety seat inspector.
She has worked as an airport officer, providing security for the Tyler Pounds Regional Airport since 2008, and she will serve her last day on Wednesday.
The Tyler Police Department held a retirement celebration for her last week.
“It’s like a family; and just being able to work with the public,” Officer Nauls-Mast said of what she has enjoyed most about working for the police department.
The biggest change in law enforcement she has seen throughout the years is technology.
When she started, patrol officers called in their reports and a person would listen to the recording and type it. Officers eventually began writing the reports themselves, and later moved from filing paper to having computers.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” she said of being an officer. “It’s a good profession to get in.”
She said she would advise anyone to get into a law enforcement career.
Her plans for retirement are not to stay retired for too long. She said she is going to take a year off work and take a few college courses in art and psychology and help out her son with his photography business, SBK Visuals. After a year of rest, she said she will be ready to do something else.
Officer Nauls-Mast and her husband of 34 years, the Rev. Michael Mast, have two children. She is a member of Greater St. Mary Baptist Church, Top Ladies of Distinction/Top Teens of America, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Women in Tyler Recognition Committee.
She also has volunteered for several organizations.