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RWYH 4

Remember Why You're Here Episode 4

Episode 4 Transcript

Why Cops Need to be Vulnerable with Sharon Giles and Jeff Takeda
Listen to the episode here: https://linkpop.com/rwyh 

[MUSIC PLAYING] How would you sit there and interview someone for three or four hours and not want to kill them? And I'm like. you know why? Because they're victims too.

How cruel we are to each other in this job, but also to be aware of how cruel and judgmental you are on yourself.

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Welcome back to remember why you're here. Today, we have the honor and privilege of talking with two highly respected believers. Sharon Giles is a recently retired Oxnard police department commander. The most rewarding work during her law enforcement career was investigating and advocating for abused children and women. Sharon spent the majority of her career working and managing the investigative Services Bureau.

She spent almost 22 years investigating and managing criminal investigations of sexual abuse, child abuse, missing persons, domestic violence, elder abuse, and homicide. Sharon is a huge advocate for victims rights and spent a great deal of her career building partnerships with community organizations and other law enforcement organizations in finding new and innovative ways to combat abuse against women and children.

Jeff Takeda is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and an active law enforcement officer with over 23 years of experience. In 2020, Jeff started Takeda Training Concepts, which provides meditation training to first responders and veterans. Jeff is a longtime meditation practitioner, he is a trained mindfulness facilitator through the UCLA awareness Research Center, and a member of the International Mindfulness Teachers Association. In addition, he co-founded a mindfulness program at his police department and leads a weekly meditation program for veterans and first responders.

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Thank you both for joining us today. It is such a pleasure to have you both on. For the listeners, I have known Sharon for-- Sharon, it's been like 10 years, I think.

Longer than that.

Right? It's been a really long time, and she's not tired of me, which is great. And Jeff, I've probably known you now is it three years?

Well, it seems way longer than that, Crystal.

I know.

But yeah, three years or so, yeah.

[LAUGHTER]

All right. So I want to just hit the ground running with both of you because you have over 50 years of experience in law enforcement combined, both of you. So that's a lot of knowledge and experience that we have. Sharon has 30 years of experience and Jeff has 23 years of experience. So can you tell us a little bit about your career in law enforcement and the impact it has had on you?

I went into law enforcement originally because I always wanted to be a SWAT guy. I was an infantryman in the Marine Corps. I wanted to do all the cool high speed things. Get into pursuits, arrest people. At one point, I started handling child abuse cases and got exposed to the multi-disciplinary system and the victim centered approach, which coupled particular cases really changed my perspective on it.

And now, I'm working in a position-- I'm still a detective, but I work in our mental health co-response unit, and I work in the field with clinicians and social workers. It's really probably the most rewarding and satisfying position I've ever been in because we are connecting people suffering from mental illness with the services that are available to them. And it's also helping to change-- I think it's helping to change people's perspective on law enforcement.

Because oftentimes, in today's climate, people are afraid to call the police, especially when they have a loved one suffering from mental illness because they're afraid. Quite bluntly, people have told me, I'm afraid you guys are going to kill my family member because they're mentally ill and acting aggressive. And over the past couple of years, especially in this position, it's really been rewarding to let people see a different side of the police department let them know, you can feel safe calling us when your family members having this episode because we're trained in de-escalation.

So Sharon, tell us a little bit about your career.

The first couple of years of my career, I seemed to gravitate towards child abuse cases-- sexual assault cases and child abuse cases or family violence cases in particular. I thought it was quite good at them. And so I got to the point where if I was on duty, the detectives that were in the unit at the time, the senior detectives, they were like, hey, is Sharon on duty?

And if she is, do you think-- can you have her call me? And then I would handle the call for them so they wouldn't have to come out. And I think the thing that I didn't even realize that-- and I'll say this on here, is that I'm a victim of molestation when I was 11. That's hard to say when you're 59 years old, let me just tell you.

But I thought to myself, wow, why am I connecting so much with these people? Well, that's why it was connecting. So I still always had my hands in that arena. So about 22 years-- a little over 22 years total that I've had working specifically sex crimes, homicide, child homicides, and child abuse, so it's-- and I'm still very passionate about it. I was always called a social worker with a gun because I think I look at things differently.

When I interviewed even suspects, people would say, how would you sit there and interview someone for three or four hours and not want to kill them? And I'm like, you know why? Because they're victims too. The majority of the people that I interviewed were victims, they had a very dysfunctional environment where they grew up. They were abused, either mom or dad was in prison, or just a dysfunctional. Everybody has dysfunction.

But there was definitely dysfunction. I grew up in a dysfunctional home-- alcoholic father, domestic violence. I'm not ashamed to say that, but that's what's made me the person that I am today. So if I didn't have those things happen in my life, I probably wouldn't be in the path that I am now. But like I said, I just think those make me that much better of an investigator and really understand where people are coming from.

I think coming from a place of understanding is-- that's an amazing trait to have as an investigator. And Jeff, I want to ask you, so what did draw you into doing child abuse cases as well?

Well, initially, I was thrown into it. They were definitely cases-- I remember working patrol and sharing a 2AA case-- a child abuse case would come up and a patrol guy would be like, oh my god, what do I do? And frankly, I was fearful. I was scared. These are serious crimes. I don't want to screw anything up. And then the first agency I worked for was very small. There were only two detectives, and I was the second detective in a career enhancement spot. So I was getting child abuse cases.

And just learning how to do those types of investigations. This was back in early 2000, and the victim centered approach it wasn't something that was really at the forefront. But what I remember is, this case I'm going to talk about is-- I eventually got the full time investigator spot. And it was a case-- it was a really horrific sexual assault case of a nine-year-old girl.

She had been in a sexually assaulted to the point where she almost died from blood loss. And we got called out to the residence, and there were seven children in the house, and three or four adults. And the girl had been assaulted, penetrated with an object, and she wasn't disclosing anything that happened.

There was an uncle that lived in the house. He took off unexpectedly, and he says, hey, this is just crazy stuff. And so we were zeroing in on him, but we got no disclosure from the girl. And it was just very convoluted. And I remember watching the forensic interviewer interview the victim, and she had a partner social worker that was in the observation room with me.

And at one point, the victim-- they didn't use a 10 step process. They used a different process, a different system. But at one point, they get to their version of the allegation phase and just blank look goes over the victim's face and the social worker says, that's a trauma response. Working with CPS there and coming up with a game plan, how are we going to keep all these children safe?

So we ended up taking all the children out of the home. They all went to different care facilities. And eventually, the victim gets into a safe environment, gets counseling, and she finally discloses that it was the uncle. She discloses, we arrest the guy, he ends up going to state prison. And I want to say about two years later-- and I'm working for a different agency than I am now, I'm working traffic control at this May Festival Parade thing they have in the city.

And I'm standing there on the street, and I hear someone call my name, but my last name, Takeda. The young girl. And I turn around, and one of the floats from the parade is driving by, and it's a church float, and there's a bunch of kids in the back. And I look and it's the victim. And she's passing by, and she-- makes me emotional a little bit when I talk about it.

But as she passes by. She reaches her hand out to almost give me a high five. And I reached my hand out, and she grabs my hand and passes by. And it was almost like she was telling me, hey, I'm OK. Because I didn't know really what had happened to her. I hadn't seen her in a couple of years, and here, she was-- obviously, she was back with her family. And it was in that moment when I realized, OK, this is what I should be doing. The welfare of the victim is really number one. And to see that was really powerful.

Sharon, do you have anything you wanted to add?

As Jeff's talking, all these cases, thousands of cases are floating through my head. And you don't ever forget those victims. But some of the things that we're going to talk about just triggered those things. And it was like I-- especially being a supervisor to and a manager, I've seen everything from having partners that really couldn't connect that were terrible investigators because they were in that-- well, I'm more of a swamp boy or I'm a good old boy, that kind of attitude as opposed to really understanding.

And I told everybody that came to work for me, number one if you're coming to work for Sharon Giles, you're going to work. But secondly, you're going to really have some empathy for these victims, and you're going to be respectful to them and to these suspects. And I know that's a lot to ask. You have to be invested in the victims trauma and the suspect's trauma. Bottom line.

So going into that, I think you've both been vulnerable and understand as a very empathetic person myself how much you take on when you connect with someone, when you're empathize, all of that. And so now I can only imagine you both with the work that you've done, how much that impacts you. So you've listened to someone you've done a forensic interview for two to three hours. Now you've got to go home and be mom, grandma, wife, husband, uncle, whatever it is. How does that work impact you and how have you seen it impact your peers?

I've always said that police work in itself is very intrusive into an officer's life, into their personal life. It's not your 8:00 to 5:00 job. It's not Monday through Friday. So there's a lot of things that go into that. There's a lot of shift work. I mean, Jeff and I, on these cases, get called out all hours of the day and night.

And I remember getting called out when it was my son's birthday and the kids being upset because I had to leave. I remember getting called out on Christmas morning at 5:00 AM when the kids are getting up for Christmas and they want to see things. I've seen the frustration from my kids. They actually verbalized it. Of course, all my kids are adults now, but they verbalized it as to, well, god, turn off your phone. Do you ever get time off?

I never had time off. I was on call 24/7, especially when I was a manager. I think the most important thing is to find an outlet. But I just think that have to be, I guess, more proactive in your personal life as opposed to being reactive. I got to a point where it's like-- it was like I just went into my own world, and I just didn't really-- my husband's law enforcement too, so he never really said-- I knew that he was always there if I needed to talk to him, but I tried not to bring those cases home.

So the example would be is like, the husband would go because I'm the wife. So what are we having for dinner? I'd be like, in the back of my mind, did he just ask me what the hell we're having for dinner? Do you want me to eat you right now? Do you understand what kind of day and night that I've had? But I had-- and believe me, there were times that I gave him that look. And he thought, oh, Jesus, my wife's going to kill me.

I had to send out that fishing line and drag myself in and like, hey, lady, you need to get your crap together because that number one the stress that you're dealing with is huge. It was affecting my sleep. I would see some of these kids in my sleep, especially the dead children. I would carry that for months.

And you're just constantly thinking about cases, constantly. What am I going to do tomorrow? Especially on your night before your Monday morning before you had to go to court or if you had a big case that was going on. But again, I learned that I had become this person where when I was off, I didn't want to be bothered. I love the clean house, so throw me into that, but don't let me make other decisions. And that was unfair to my husband because we had kids.

We had a life. They had sports, all these other things. I also had to sit down with my spouse and said, OK, look, I've been really ugly. And before you slap divorce papers on me, hey, sometimes I struggle and I just need you to help pick up the pieces. But that's a very vulnerable place for us cops to go to also, especially a female cop. Because I've always been like, I can handle my own business. I don't need your help.

Sharon's one of those people that in this field we call a true believer. And Sharon was one of the instructors when I went through the forensic interviewing training years ago, and I could definitely see that there. And I just want to say, you've always been-- even though I never worked for you directly, but a model and a mentor when it comes to working child abuse cases. And you can see that.

We've got a couple detectives fortunately in my agency that work child abuse now that I would call true believers also. That they are considering all aspects, and have the intention to really help people. But for me, I remember-- especially with my ex-wife, coming home and just feeling mentally exhausted and just not wanting to talk about it, not wanting to have to explain anything.

I'm the type of guy that usually just keeps stuff inside. And for me, a lot of times, that would come out later as anger. And I would take it out on the people closest to me a lot of the times, and it sneaks up on you. So I'm really, really a proponent and a practitioner of meditation.

How many minutes would you suggest people try to meditate, especially at the beginning?

At the beginning, I would say whatever you can get to on a consistent basis. If it's just one or two minutes or five minutes, that's fine. Ideally, you want to get up to 12 to 15 minutes. The most recent science is consistent practice in the 12 and 15 minute per day, and you'll start to see all the benefits associated with meditation. Increase focus and concentration, better adaptation of the nervous system under stress, all those things, including better cognitive performance with being able to pay attention.

One thing I will say why I feel meditation is so important now is because we are so distracted. We are so distracted with email, social media. We have never had more things pulling our attention away. And we have to use the internet. We have to use social media, have to use email. We have to use all these things, but there's a negative effect of all this constant distraction. Your mind is agitated. Your attention span is short.

If you think about certain social media applications, they're literally retraining your brain to-- it's literally shortening your attention span. It's training your attention span to be shorter. And meditation is a time tested ancient practice that is an antidote to all that distraction. And so it's just like working out. You need to do some type of physical exercise every day to see results. Meditation's the same way. If you do it once a month, you're probably not going to see much benefit from it. It's that consistent practice. And it really is-- simply, meditation is working with your attention.

Sharon, as a supervisor, what are the signs of the burnout?

You can only hear so many stories, and you start becoming or feeling like you start living in other people's lives, if that makes sense. But I've seen officers derail with getting in trouble somehow, some way at work through complaints, being a little heavy handed in that aspect, yelling at people for no reason, being extremely rude, being short, not being very compassionate. It's just boom, boom, boom, I saw everything.

We are so cruel to each other in our own profession it's insane. And I'm not saying that I'm not-- I've never done it because I have. But again, it took me a long time, Crystal, it took me a long time to understand trauma. Trauma to officers, trauma to our victims, trauma to our suspects. We weren't much different.

My department brought in Dr. Gilmartin from Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement seminar, and he brought them in and my husband went because you got to bring your spouses or your family. And I was like, oh, it's me. Oh god, that's me. Oh god, that's me. Oh god, that's me.

And like I said, before I got served with divorce papers, I needed to figure out what I was going to do. I had three children. So it definitely made me look at things from a different perspective. And I love like-- I think that's a great read. I think everybody should read, and Dr. Gilmartin talks about proactive versus reactive, setting yourself up for emotional survival in this field.

Jeff, is there anything you wanted to add?

What I will say is-- and Sharon touched on it, how cruel we are to each other in this job, but also to be aware of how cruel and judgmental you are on yourself. And I think that's a big barrier to officers asking for help or realizing that they need help. From a practical standpoint, the brain is consuming energy. It's consuming your energy to get through your day and your brain's constantly active with all that negativity that's taking up a lot of brain power. So be more kind to yourself. And cops hate-- I hate when I hear people people say that to-- oh, that touchy feely stuff, but it's true.

[LAUGHS] So true. All right. Well, thank you both so much for your time. Thank you for all of your words of wisdom, and thank you most importantly, for your vulnerability. I know this is difficult to talk about, and we all appreciate you.

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Check out the bonus episode for a guided meditation with Jeff.

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Thank you so much for listening to another episode of Remember Why You're Here. To access the transcript for this episode and to learn more about what we do at CIR, please visit our website at cirinc.org. Until next time.

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