Reading an article on Saturday in the L.A. Times about the now widely-reported and extremely disturbing story of kidnap, rape, eventual impregnation, and 18-year enslavement of Jaycee Dugard, then 11 and now 29, I was struck by the fact that the two law-enforcement officers who broke the case and rescued the young woman and her two daughters, were both women.
Lisa Campbell and Ally Jacobs of the UC Berkeley Police Department (pictured below) were suspicious of Phillip Garrido and the two girls he introduced as his daughters and did something that numerous authorities over a 15-year period who had encountered the ego-maniacal, sex-obsessed, clearly delusional man in charge of two young children had failed to do: they acted on their suspicions, investigated further, and intervened. In the process, they ended the 18-year nightmare for Jaycee, her children, and her family of origin. (Although, you can definitely argue, a new sort of nightmare is just beginning for them all as they struggle to come to terms with what happened and adjust to the new circumstances of their lives.)
(Photo: Paul Chinn / Associated Press / August 28)
As a long-time employee of the University of California, I'll confess I've been known to disparage university police officers, seeing them as wannabee cops--something I will never do again. For it was these two women university police officers who succeeded in a task with life-and-death consequences in which numerous other law enforcement authorities had utterly failed.
What is more, their success may have occurred precisely because they were women.
Here's how the Times described the interview that took place after Officer Campbell, acting on her intuition and training, persuaded Garrido to come into headquarters for an interview in the company of the two girls he'd fathered with his kidnap victim:
Jacobs and Campbell took turns talking to Garrido while the other tried to draw out the girls. They asked the girls their names but couldn't hear their replies. The names were "hippie-like," akin to Jasmine and Buttercup.
The younger girl said she was in fourth grade, and her elder sister said she was in ninth grade.
Asked where they went to school, they answered in unison "like robots," Jacobs said. "We're home-schooled."
Whenever the younger girl spoke, her sister would "shoot her a glance" of warning, Jacobs said.
In the meeting, Garrido said matter-of-factly that he had once been convicted of kidnapping and rape. The girls did not react.
Jacobs asked the younger girl about a bump above one of her eyebrows. " 'It's a birth defect. It's inoperable. I will have it for the rest of my life, ' " Jacobs said the girl replied as though coached. "She just wouldn't stop smiling."
Jacobs, the mother of two young boys, said she tuned into her "mother mode" as she watched the girls.
She described the girls as " 'Little House on the Prairie' meets robots, clones.' " The elder girl seemed "bothered" when her younger sister said they had an older sister, 28, at home. "Twenty-nine," the older girl corrected her.
" 'I am so proud of my girls,' " Jacobs remembered Garrido saying as he put his arm around the elder girl's shoulder. "They don't know any curse words."
At one point, Campbell made eye contact with the older girl, who "quickly caught herself and went back to looking at the ceiling." Campbell called the younger girl's smile a "smirk." [Emphasis mine.]
I'm sure I'm not the only person who finds it downright sinister that Garrido is described as putting his arm around his elder daughter. I fervently hope he was not sexually abusing her. Garrido should never again roam society a free man.
In the meantime, as most people familiar with the story probably know, authorities missed many opportunities to apprehend Garrido and rescue Dugard. In 2006, a neighbor reported in a 911-call that she suspected children were living in tents in an adjoing backyard, in the custody of a "psychotic sex addict". The deputy sheriff who responded to the call failed, however, to inspect the backyard. Had the officer recognized Garrido was a convicted sex-offender--which he didn't, notwithstanding the state monitoring system--he would not have needed a warrant to search the entire premises.
Then in 2008, Garrido's home was inspected by a multi-disciplinary team composed of members of East Contra County police agencies--who also failed to inspect the yard and find the ramshackle tents and captives.
Both federal and state probation officers were said to have kept Garrido under ongoing supervision, with a state parole officer allegedly making two or three monthly visits to the home since December. Still, none of them detected the presence of the victims. (The feds have been less forthcoming in describing the frequency of visits to the home in articles I've read.)
Here's what I wonder: how many, if any, of the previous law enforcement authorities--from probation officers to sheriff deputies--who encountered Garrido during the last 18 years and failed to intervene, were women?
To varying degrees mitigated by other factors, including race, class, age, and sexual-orientation, females raised in a sexist society generally develop superior--for lack of a better word--"radar." We have to. As second-class citizens, our success or failure, sometimes our very survival, depend upon accurately interpreting the reality of the males in charge of our existence. Another high-profile female in this case, Garrido's co-defendant and wife, Nancy, illustrate this principle in a sort of dark flipside. Nancy so understood and identified-with her husband's reality, she seems to have embraced them and become a willing participant in his horrific crimes. I don't think anyone is arguing that Phillip was not the mastermind, always in charge, however. Moreover, I wager it will come out that sexual abuse was in Nancy's background.
When I was a kid, you didn't see women cops. Law enforcement was a male-controlled field in which women were seen as unfit. Over decades, women fought tooth-and-nail to earn the right to serve--as did, in succession, open gay men and lesbians, and transsexuals. These battles, I daresay, remain ongoing in many locales across our nation. During this civil-rights struggle, "women's intuition" and "motherhood" have not been held up by critics as advantages, but usually are cited as reasons women are unfit to serve in a field that demands, at times, the application of state-sponsored violence and (far-too-often) deadly force.
In male-dominated fields, intuition and motherhood are generally viewed as, at best, inconveniences and, at worst, fatal weaknesses. And yet here is a case in which a woman--Lisa Campbell's--intuition and a mother--Ally Jacobs'--instinct, far from being weaknesses, may have been the very elements responsible for rescuing three lives and halting the ongoing commission of a heinous crime that, over a mind-numbingly long period of time, had defied the powers of countless men to solve and put a stop to.