Q: How did you get started in this career?
A: I started over 10 years ago when I turned 21 and began working at a female prison. I had always wanted to be in law enforcement. At one time I wanted to be a probation officer, but when I got involved in corrections and the prison system, my goals changed--I wanted to continue working as a correction officer. I have been working for LVMPD for over 7 years now.
Q: Why did you choose Corrections verus Police?
A: I was never really exposed to the patrol side of law enforcement. Once I was exposed to the corrections side, I loved it. I knew that is where I wanted to be.
Q: As a Correction Officer you are still able to work other assignments. Where are some of the places you have had the opportunity to work?
A: Well here at LVMPD at the Clark County Detention Center (CCDC), I have worked in a supervising housing area for inmates called "the decks," I spent three years in recruiting, and I am currently assigned to the policy and procedures and accreditation section of CCDC. All of these assignments have provided varied and necessary training for me in several areas.
Q: How has this career had a positive impact on your life.
A: This career has allowed me to do so much more for my family and my kids than I was ever exposed to growing up. I was raised by a single mother with six kids. She had to work a lot, sometimes she would work 3 jobs at a time. Growing up I had to see my mom struggle; she was on and off welfare. We had no guidance from a father. I had three older brothers and two younger sisters. For a long period of time, we had a 2 bedroom apartment. My brothers and I had to help my mom out with finances and things like that so I had to work at a young age. It was difficult growing up for me. I cannot even count how many times we moved and that included changing schools. Personally, I hated having to change schools so much and make new friends.
However, my early years helped to form my adult philosophy and I believe I am a stronger and more focused person because of it. I think we all do that. I always knew that I did not want to have to struggle like that. I wanted to have a family later on in life and I did not want my kids to go thru something like that. I intend to provide a stable environment for my family.
Q: Do they have their own room now?
A: (Laugh) Oh yes, absolutely!
Q: I knew you when you were pregnant with your second child and you were having some problems. How were you treated by LVMPD during this time?
A: I was treated very well. Everything was so positive, I cannot say anything negative. I was diagnosed with a medical condition called placenta previa. I was on bed rest for three months before my son was born four weeks premature. If all had gone normally, I had enough leave to cover three months after the birth. With this medical condition, I ran out of leave time before he was even born. LVMPD has what is called catastrophic leave, and people donate their leave to individuals in time of emergencies; and with approval from the Sheriff and Assistant Sheriff arrangements were made so I could have an additional 6-8 weeks physician recommended recovery time. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated this type of assistance and stress relief.
Q: As a Correction Officer you can be working a deck alone with numerous male or female inmates. Is that correct?
A: Yes, up to 73 inmates at one time and we can be the only officer in a housing unit for a 12-hour shift.
Q: What do you think some of the challenges are being a female with a smaller build in that kind of work capacity?
A: We receive ongoing training in dealing with inmates and use of force situations. Policies are in place where we have immediate help in any kind of emergency situation. My size and being a woman have not affected the success I have as an officer. Of course, sometimes you get the inmates who will test you. As long as you immediately address that type of thing, an officer will have a smooth shift. We learn the techniques necessary to handle inmate tactics; we each find what works for us. If you have the proper communication skills you will be fine regardless of where you work. And as I said, we continuously train and we learn every day how to handle the type of situations that come up in a jail environment from our supervisors and all the way up the chain-of-command.
Q: Are these skills you learned in the academy?
A: Yes, our training is very thorough and comprehensive. The Academy provides an extremely varied curriculum which covers the many situations that we encounter each day in a jail. The training requires much effort and careful attention, but as you go along and work with classmates, we all worked together to complete the program and come out successful.
I am a people person so I was able to adapt quickly to this type of environment. I like it! I find this career extremely demanding, but also extremely rewarding. One minute you could be dealing with an inmate who is upset and ready to "go off" – and I take that as a challenge as to how I can calm that inmate down whether by verbal communication or having to order them to comply. The next minute you might have a happy inmate or an inmate who is crying because they just lost a family member or received bad news on their case. So you are dealing with different personalities all the time in this kind of environment, but I enjoy it. There is something new every day and you are constantly testing yourself - it is always a learning experience so you do not get bored. I also feel that our work is very important and we provide a great service to the community.
Q: Tell me about your academy experience.
A: Well, entering into the academy physically was not a problem for me--I came prepared. I really trained hard for it. I am not very good with my push ups, so I knew that was something I would probably have a problem with. I definitely took the time to train, train, train.
Since I have never been a good test taker, I knew the academics would be demanding for me, but I studied hard. I took extra notes. This was something that I really wanted; I wanted to become an officer here. And you might find it interesting that my husband went thru the academy with me. We worked together so that helped me out also.
Q: Did you meet your husband in the academy? Was there ever any problems there during this time?
A: No, I have been with my husband since I was 18 years old. Going thru the academy we really pushed each other. It was competitive fun. When it came to the range, we tried to out shoot each other. When it came to defensive tactics, we helped each other out. At home, we also studied together.
Q: Was he really supportive because that is an obstacle that some women face?
A: Fortunately, my husband was very supportive, we had been doing corrections together the same amount of time. We worked for the same goals together.
Q: Anything you would like to say to interested females?
A: This career is really rewarding, I cannot say that enough. It definitely sets a good foundation for you and your family with great benefits. I remember growing up and my mom not having insurance and being on medical assistance. Having retirement and benefits for me and my family; having the opportunity to save money for our kids future gives me a very secure feeling that was never shown to me growing up.
We are teaching our kids that they are going to college. For me, graduating from high school was all that was expected of me. My mom did not even have a high school education. I am first generation Mexican American as my mom is a Mexican National. I have a lot of goals set for myself still and for my kids. Actually, the way I grew up made me stronger. I was the first one out of the six kids that owned a house. At one point I even owned two houses. It is really gratifying to know that working for LVMPD allowed me to do all that. It also allowed me to go on vacation and expose my kids to so many different things that I never had the opportunity to do.