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 was hired on the department in August of 2007 and graduated from the 21st Detentions/Court Services Academy. After I graduated, I was assigned to the Women’s Jail at Las Colinas Detention Facility (LCDF). While at Las Colinas, I was selected as a Training Officer in 2009 and a Corporal the year after. I was assigned as a Team Training Coordinator on my designated team and in 2012 was selected for the Facility Training Coordinator position. In 2013, I was assigned to Personnel where I am currently working as a Recruiter for the Department. For me, I feel like it has only been seven years, but the time has gone by so quickly and I still have my whole career ahead of me. There are still so many positions and things I want to do, but since I have started, I have enjoyed every day and have truly been blessed with everything the Sheriff’s Department has given me.
What made you want to get into a career in Law Enforcement?
When I went to school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to be a teacher, and at one point I almost joined the military. However, my dad was in the military when I was growing up and I realized how much he was always gone from home so I decided not to join. I knew someone that joined the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and would hear their stories about interesting things that happened on the job. The most interesting ones were the stories of heroism and helping the community. At that point, I knew I wanted to get into Law Enforcement. I looked into joining the CHP and to be honest, the thought of living at an academy for 6 months, and speeding around on the freeway after graduation didn’t quite interest me that much. I did some research and found myself applying for the Sheriff’s Department. I thought to myself, “There is no way I am going to get this job over the thousands of men that apply, I’m just a girl,” and here I am today, still loving the career I chose and I wouldn’t trade it for any other career choice out there.
What struggles did you have to face during your career with the Sheriff’s Department?
I guess I would have to say the biggest struggles I had to face were overcoming my battles with applying and interviewing for specialized positions. I always had a fear of interviewing terribly and making a fool out of myself for not knowing the answers. I always wanted to make sure I maintained a good solid work ethic and wanted my peers to respect the work I put out. So, the thought of me standing up in front of my supervisors and “bombing” interviews frightened me. I would always be “that deputy” that didn’t want to put in for any specialized position because I thought I wasn’t “on long enough,” or was “under qualified.” I had to realize that I was never going to get anything unless I applied. Fortunately, I have had some great mentors along my career that have truly helped me tremendously with interviewing, study techniques and overcoming a lot of my fears, and for them I will always be grateful.
What advice can you give to women to overcome these same challenges?
I would suggest throughout your career, try and gain any solid mentors you can. Having someone mentor me through the challenges really helped me gain a lot of knowledge, and in turn, I felt more comfortable applying for specialized positions, interviewing, and finding the resources to help me achieve success. Overall I have felt more confident in my abilities to train, lead, and be a more pro-active, and diligent deputy.
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?
My family had all of the normal concerns regarding the dangers of the job. When I was in the academy, I remember coming home with a bunch of bruises and marks from our defensive tactics class. My mom didn’t really understand the types of training classes we took in the academy so she would always be puzzled on why I had so many bruises all the time. After our wonderful “OC Day,” I came home and my eyes and face were messed up so bad I couldn’t really sleep well. At one point, my mom was upset and goes, “Desiree, are you sure they can do this to you guys?” I just laughed and told her it was ok and it was part of our training. After graduating, my family had a new found respect for what I went through and during the ceremony they were able to see some of the things we did in the academy. To this day, I don’t think my mom really understands what I do on a daily basis, but she says she is proud of my accomplishments, and is very supportive regarding my career choice.
If you had the opportunity to change anything within your career, what would it be and why?
I would have to say that I have truly been blessed with everything throughout my career, and wouldn’t change a thing. All of the struggles and battles I have encountered have helped me grow stronger and have molded me into the deputy that I am today.
What are your views on why more women are not choosing a career in Law Enforcement?
I think women are afraid because law enforcement is such a male dominated field to get into. When my partners (all male) and I go out to events and talk to people, I watch the females gravitate towards me and they always seem to ask the same questions. “How hard is the academy? How is it working with all boys? Are there a lot of women in the department? Are women really respected as much as the men are? Is it really dangerous working the jails?” These are all questions that I hear pretty frequently. Once I spend the time and talk to these females, they tend to feel a little more at ease with applying. I believe television and movies have a big part on why society thinks the way they do regarding law enforcement. Once you get out of the T.V. and movie facade, there’s such a great opportunity that lies into a career with the Sheriff’s Department, for both men and women.
How did you balance the scale between family life and shift work?
Balancing family life and shift work hasn’t been that difficult for me. I actually miss having my “5 days off” schedule. It was like having a mini vacation every time I went on my 5 days off. Before my Tuesday-Friday schedule, I used to spend Thanksgiving on the weekend I had off because the schedule I was on required me to work every Thursday. My family didn’t mind and they definitely didn’t mind when we spent Christmas early. I think the hardest thing I had to adjust to would be working on night shift. When I had my first deployment of working night shift, I had a hard time adjusting back to “normal” hours on my days off. I found out the easiest thing for me to do was to just stay on my “night shift routine” on my days off. My family didn’t like it that much because I would sleep during the day and be awake at night, but it was too difficult for me to adjust back. Eventually after a couple months of night shift, I got used to it and actually enjoyed working night shift over day shift.
What about women that are highly concerned with their physical fitness level? How did you cope with the academy physical fitness requirements?
I will be the first to admit, I wasn’t the most physically fit in my academy. I hated running and stuck with the rest of the guys in the back of the runs. I had the mentality of, “as long as I’m not the LAST one, I’m ok.” Don’t get me wrong, we all got yelled at the most but I just never was a strong runner. Throughout the academy, I did get stronger with my push-ups, sit-ups and running so I was satisfied with improving all the way around.
Now, fitness has grown to be my lifestyle, and I feel healthier than ever before. My advice to all of those that are applying is that you need to have a physical fitness regimen. You MUST run at least 3-4 times a week at an 8-9 minute mile pace, do push-ups, and sit-ups every day and eat healthier. While you are going through the background process, we offer a pre-academy workout program. Candidates now have the ability to see where they are at physically, and prepare for what the academy has in store for them. It also builds a camaraderie within the candidates and they get to be familiar with each other prior to the academy starting. Many candidates take advantage of the program and have expressed their gratitude with the amount of preparation it has helped them with physically and mentally. The program only started about a year ago, and it has taken off to be a huge success.
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment or most memorable experience while working for the Sheriff’s Department?
I would have to say my biggest accomplishment would be the ability to lead and train people at Las Colinas. When I first started, I knew within the first week that I wanted to be a Training Officer. When I was able to apply, I remember studying for weeks on end. I studied everything and anything there was to know about the facility and department procedures. I remember saying to myself it would be a miracle if I made T.O. because I had only been on for 2 years. The night before my interview, I couldn’t sleep, and felt sick to my stomach the day of. When I was notified of making T.O, I felt such a huge accomplishment. I knew it was something I wanted to do, and I made sure I studied hard enough to be successful. Being able to train new deputies was such a passion of mine. I took pride in every trainee I had, and to this day, still keep in contact with many of them.
Another big accomplishment was when I was selected for the position of Facility Training Coordinator. I never imagined I would be given the chance to oversee the training for the facility and I was privileged to be a part of such a good team.
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?
My advice to any woman that is considering joining the Sheriff’s Department is to do it, and do it now! If you have any doubts, concerns, or prejudices about being in Law Enforcement, give me a call, or send me an email. If you know that this is what you want to do, then you should let nothing stop you. Being in the Sheriff’s Department was the best decision I have ever made, and sometimes it has been very challenging, but it has helped me gain more confidence, independence, and stability than I would have ever imagined. Before I applied, I did my research, and I advise everybody to do the same. Once you have, you will find that the Sheriff’s Department is the way to go. If making a difference in your community is what you are destined to do, then apply. You will have an amazing career, whether it's working at the courts, jails, or on patrol. You have so many options and the opportunities are endless.