How much "mother's intuition" do you see around you in other female law enforcement officials?
A good number of the women officers I know don't have children, but they still hone these skills. Once you have kids, though, it can certainly enhance your instincts--you may especially pay more attention to other children. You're concerned about protecting your offspring, shielding them from predators, and paying more attention to your surroundings so they are safe. The need to care for others is often stronger than your need to care for yourself. It comes to work with you.
What elements of being a mother do you think can enlighten or add extra insight for an officer, and what's extra difficult?
I have more concerns about my safety than when I was single with no children. Someone depends on me now, so I have more concerns about my own mortality. I've been an officer for 24 years in the same community. For much of my career, I've worked on death investigations, child sexual abuse, and domestic abuse. I drive down a street and remember the deaths I've investigated, the homes broken into, graphic domestic violence cases, and--the most horrific of all--child sexual abuse. I see a lot of sadness and trauma. I don't want my family to see the world the same way I do: I shield my children, but it frames who I am as a person.
How are law enforcement officials trained to develop their gut instincts, and learn to follow them effectively?
There's basic interview and interrogation training, but you learn what rings true. People follow certain patterns: someone speaking off the cuff sounds one way, and someone who seems robotic will seem rehearsed. A lot of that simply comes from years of being an officer, talking to people, and fine-tuning your instincts. In a suspicious situation, you might have a hard time putting it into words, but the hair on the back of your neck will stand up, and you don't know why. Later, when someone walks you through the case step by step, you realize you were picking up on all these subtle cues that caused you to react.
I recommend a book called The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker, which speaks to this issue. He talks about how women have this "gift" better than men—it's primal, through evolution, because the females of a species were more likely to be preyed upon or victimized. Yet women don't always listen to their fear, because we don't want to be rude and we tend to avoid confrontation. In his second book, Protecting the Gift, De Becker talks about teaching children how to listen to their instincts and recognize dangerous situations. If you can learn to follow your gut instincts, to be observant, to see what doesn't make sense, it makes you a better police officer and can keep you safe.