DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A decorated Dallas Police officer is flying off into retirement after spending decades chasing down the bad guys, while also breaking down barriers.

Senior Corporal Elizabeth “Libby” Cotner in 1994 became the department’s first and only female helicopter pilot, combining a love of both law enforcement and flying.

“My mother told me years ago, she goes: ‘if you get a job, make sure you get a job that you love to do, because you’ll never work a day in your life’,” says Cotner.  “I mean, this was just an awesome ride.”

As a girl, Cotner dreamed of going to the Air Force Academy — but, women weren’t admitted until the late ’70s.  After joining the police department, she spent her own time and money to earn her wings.  But, her work earned her the respect of her colleagues —some of whom, she admits, back then were skeptical.

“So, I was like ‘I already understand law enforcement, I understand the work, working in the environment, working with guys… I’m not here to push myself on you and my way of thinking, I’m here to work side by side.”

Sr. Crpl. Cotner retired earlier this month with more than 36 total years of service and having logged nearly 3000 flight hours.  She says she can’t remember all of the car chases and late night searches.  But, insists that as hokey as it sounds—it is the people that she’ll miss most.

“They’ve been great.  They’ve been really great. I met a lot of incredible people… dedicated people.”

Over the years, Cotner says she’s been the ‘Mom’, ‘big sister’, and always available ear for her cadre of all male cohorts who have consistently treated her with respect.  And while she is quietly proud of her role as the department’s first female pilot, she is more excited about the opportunities awaiting young women today.

“I even remind my daughter about that, the door is open to you — you can do anything.”

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