Tell us a little about yourself (how long you have been on) and what you have done in your career with the Sheriff’s Department.
I’ve been on the department for 26 years. I graduated from the very first corrections academy in May of 1988. The Las Colinas Detention Facility (LCDF) was my very first assignment, interestingly enough it will probably be my last assignment because I’m going to be retiring in the next 1½ years. Over the course of my career, I have worked all of the jail facilities in one capacity or another. I was also the first Detentions Recruiter, assigned to Personnel. I worked there for three years, and it was probably one of the best jobs I ever had. I promoted to a Sergeant position in 1993. I worked the George Bailey Detention Facility (GBDF), the old Central Jail (CDF) and the new San Diego Central Jail (SDCJ). I was a part of the transition team for SDCJ, so I spent about eight years total working in the downtown male facilities. I transferred to the Career Path Sergeant position and after 3 months I promoted to Lieutenant and was assigned to CJ, then transferred to the Vista Detention Facility (VDF). I promoted to Captain and was assigned to VDF, and now am at LCDF. I was one of the first females promoted to Detentions Sergeant, and I was actually the first female promoted to Detentions Lieutenant, and the first female promoted to Detentions Captain.
What made you want to get into a career in Law Enforcement?
I was a single mom at the time. I was looking for a job that had better pay, benefits and a retirement at the end of the road. I was already about 30 years old when I got into this job, so I was looking at it from a different angle. More like, "What can this job do for me, as well as what can I do for the job." I actually responded to a very small, little ad in the newspaper. Back in those days, that’s how you found a job by looking at the want ads, and here I am 26 years later. I still enjoy this job, and the people on the department. It’s been a great career. It has turned out to be much more than I could have ever anticipated. When I first came on the department, we couldn’t carry weapons, and were told we weren’t going to have much contact with the inmates. There wasn’t going to be a promotional ladder, and of course, all of that has changed significantly.
What struggles did you have to face during your career with the Sheriff’s Department?
I wouldn’t really say any real struggles per se. This has always been very male-dominated profession so it is something to adjust to when you come to work on any law enforcement department. Additionally, the Detentions Classification was new, so everyone was kind of getting used to us, and what we were going to be able to do. At the time we had to prove ourselves a little bit to the law enforcement deputies that were working the jail but for the most part, I can’t say that I had any bad experiences when I first came on. Overall it went pretty well.
What concerns did your family and friends have with you becoming a Deputy Sheriff and did their concerns change after successful completion of your training?
I think that parents and/or family are always concerned when relatives come into this profession; sons or daughters, but more specifically with the daughters. I think that most people need to realize that this job is more about dealing with people and communication. If you are smart, have good common sense, and good communication skills, with everything you learn in the academy you should have no problem doing this job.
If you had the opportunity to change anything within your career, what would it be and why?
There really wasn’t anything that jumped out at me when I thought of this question. I’m sure there has probably been little things throughout my career that I wish would have been different. Now that I’m sort of nearing the end of it, and I’m where I’m at, I have no regrets about anything in this department or the profession that I chose, or what I have accomplished since I have been here.
What are your views on why more women are not choosing a career in Law Enforcement?
I think it’s a couple of things. I think women just don’t think they can do this job, which is absolutely not true. I think that anybody can do this job, if it’s something that you want to do, and I would tell everyone you should apply if it’s something that you are interested in. The other thing is, I think that television or movies sometimes don’t accurately portray what this job is really all about. There are a lot of good things that go on in this profession, and people in this profession are doing good things every day, but that’s not what you see in the news or on the media so you have younger and or older women that think, "I can’t do this job or how am I going to do that job."
How did you balance the scale between family life and shift work?
I think that’s never easy, I think I’m still balancing the job and home life. We all have to make it work one way or another. Everything is a job. You have to come to work, your kids are work, your marriage is work, and you have to be able to put in a full day of effort in all of these areas of your life. I think once you learn to do that, you can make everyone somewhat happy, including yourself. It really does help when your family is supportive of what you do. When they are not supportive it just creates more tension, and more stress in relationships. That goes both ways, for men and women, it’s not just a struggle for women; although maybe, a little more because you might feel guilty about not being at home with your kids, or not being at home to make dinner, or being able to take them to school or pick them up and all those types of things that "stay at home" moms get to do.
What advice do you have for single mothers that are hesitant to join the Sheriff’s Department due to their parenting concerns?
I would say that I am a better mom because I work. I’m not really the "stay at home" type and I think a lot of women really aren’t either. The one thing you have to work at is not allowing your family to make you feel guilty about what you’re doing or about your job or about not being there all the time for them. If you have young children, my best advice is to find a great daycare provider whether it’s a family member or friend or day care center because if you can be at work without worrying about who’s watching your children, you’ve already won half the battle.
What about women that are highly concerned with their physical fitness level? How did you cope with the academy physical fitness requirements?
My best advice is that you definitely need to have some levels of physical fitness. When you join the academy, it’s much easier to get through if you are already practicing some level of aerobics or cardio and some sort of exercise plan that involves running. It was definitely a different experience than anything I have ever gone through in life. You have to remember that you have to complete the academy; otherwise you don’t get the job. For me personally, the main struggle I had during the academy was running. The running was never easy, and you were pretty much thrown right into it so when you show you should be prepared and able to run a couple of miles. My best advice is DON’T give up, keep working at it, and you’ll be there on graduation day. I think for a lot of us, it’s just so easy to say, "I can’t do this, I quit" instead of just working through it, and building up your fitness level and improving.
How was the academy for you when you joined the department? What were your struggles, and weaknesses? What were your strengths? How would you compare your academy to the one the Sheriff’s Department currently runs?
The academics portion of the academy was not a big deal. Back then the academy had a shorter time period of 8 weeks as opposed to now, which is 16 weeks. In 1988, we did not carry firearms, and I think that’s a portion in the academy where women tend to struggle, but I think the department does a really good job of providing additional training in this area to the cadets in the academy.
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment or most memorable experience while working for the Sheriff’s Department?
There’s really too many to name, I really enjoyed working in Personnel. I was assigned there as a Recruiter, and as the Detentions Career Path Sergeant. I really enjoyed being a part of the SDCJ Transition Team, and of course, the promotional aspect of my career, especially making Captain which was my ultimate goal. We are currently preparing to open a new women’s facility. The new San Diego County Women’s Detention Reentry Facility is beautiful and it is going to be a great place to work.
Most memorable is meeting my husband on the department. Overall for me, it’s really about the people that I get to work with that makes this department the best agency to work for. Every time I change assignments, I feel like I’m leaving a great group of people but then I show up at my new assignment and there’s just another great group of people there that I get to meet. There are a lot of talented people on this department and a lot of great work being accomplished.
If you had an opportunity to speak to women that were considering joining the Sheriff’s Department, what would be the most important advice you would give them?
I would say if you are really interested in doing this job, then come and join the Sheriff’s Department. We are all just regular people, we are all someone’s daughter, some of us are someone’s mom, someone’s wife, sister, girlfriend, etc. This is not as difficult as most people think it is and it’s really a great career so if you are hesitant, don’t hesitate. Come and join us and our family on the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.