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Saturday April 1st

Q&A with retired Chapel Hill Police Department crisis counselor Sabrina Garcia

<p>Photo courtesy of Sabrina Garcia. This photo shows Garcia at Al's Burger Shack, after the restaurant named a burger after she announced her retirement.&nbsp;</p>
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Photo courtesy of Sabrina Garcia. This photo shows Garcia at Al's Burger Shack, after the restaurant named a burger after she announced her retirement. 

Sabrina Garcia retired from the Chapel Hill Police Department after 28 years as a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Specialist. Staff writer Claire Willmschen spoke with Garcia about her career, her work and what's next.

The Daily Tar Heel: What can you tell me about you and about your career?

Sabrina Garcia: I came to North Carolina from New Mexico in 1990, in August. I actually became an employee of the Chapel Hill Police Department as a crisis counselor in September, I was hired to come. I came to the department simply because the crisis program was so unique to a law enforcement agency. You know, I always had this idea or belief that there was a marriage to be had between psychology and law enforcement and understanding victimology and offenders. Lo and behold, this department allowed me to come and kind of create that. I stayed with the department officially a little over 27 years, but have retired with 28.3 under my belt. 

DTH: What was it like being a female officer?

SG: It was a very unique experience to be given the responsibility to help teach and manage and oversee a specially trained team of officers who were advance-trained by me. We then instituted an internal SART, Sexual Assault Response Team, and domestic violence team. I also taught in the academics — in our academy and various academies across the state — for about 26-27 years, which meant I had to get law enforcement certification for an instructor. It allowed me to help shape a lot of men and women coming into the profession. Having that background, having had the experience in law enforcement, having now been able to be an instructor for law enforcement, really gave me the chance to be able to shape and, hopefully, prepare our profession for more and more acceptance of females. When I first began in law enforcement years and years and years ago — I won’t say how many years — it was a field that didn't know how to embrace gender equality. It really was very military, and it has evolved over the years. I think that is one of the unique places that I get to hold, I’ve gotten to be not only a witness to its evolution but also a participant. 

DTH: What would you say were the best experiences in your career? 

SG: You know, I really can’t pick one specific memory that really stands out. There’s so many. This job lends itself to being a humbling privilege to be with people during their rawest time. You're witness to people’s pain and tragedy and crisis. It’s a bond that few people understand until you’re there. I also have seen the human spirit and its strength and its healing. And I can’t lie, I like getting the bad guys. I like when a verdict comes down and it’s justice. Or it’s a voice that is given to people who have been harmed. There’s so many points of this profession that one is very difficult to pick.

DTH: Are you excited to be retired?

SG: It’s one of those things where you know a certain path is complete in one arena. I’m grateful for that and very privileged to have been at service at that particular time with that agency. I’m very grateful, but for me, that relationship has now completed itself. I can walk away with gratefulness and a hope that my next path on this journey is going to lend itself to a combination of things that I’ve been given the opportunity to learn along the way.

DTH: What are you looking forward to doing in the future?

SG: I love teaching, and I love training so I’m hoping to continue on that journey. I enjoy writing, and I’ve written a couple of professional articles, I enjoy that. I might be driven to doing a little more writing like that. You know, we’ll see. I’ve still got my hand in some connections with the state and agencies, so wherever I can be at service, I’ll be there.


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