An Interesting Look At CPSO Lt. Beth McGee’s Violent Crime-Solving Detective Work
By Brad Goins
The first stirrings of Beth McGee’s passion for law enforcement can probably be traced back to a time when she was the victim of a violent crime at the age of 12.
Denise Hughes, a detective with the Lake Charles Police Dept., worked with the young victim.
“I was treated with such respect and dignity,” says McGee. “She made a huge impact. The way she treated me was the way I wanted to be treated.”
Hughes’ kind and sympathetic treatment would become a template for the manner in which McGee would one day treat victims when she was a detective.
Some years after the incident, in 1997, McGee started working with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office. She needed a job so that she could go to college to get her degree in sociology.
She became a dispatcher, which she says was one of the few jobs available for women in the Sheriff’s Office at the time. She worked 12-hour night shifts, then went to school when she got off.
She “fell in love with everything about law enforcement — adrenaline, teamwork, helping others.”
She “wanted to be out there and help others” just as Det. Hughes had helped her. But as a woman, she “didn’t see where the next opportunity was.”
In 2000, she left the sheriff’s office for the state’s Division of Probation and Parole, where she stayed for 10 years.
‘NEVER BACK DOWN’
She returned to the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office in 2010. She felt that as a woman, she was “going to have to prove [herself].”
She found the opportunities she’d been looking for, gradually moving up the ranks from detective to senior sergeant to lieutenant.
After she returned to the Sheriff’s office, she found “more women [there who] showed the community they could do anything they wanted to.
“I think I’ve proven I can hang with the guys — never backing down from a situation. I have their backs and they have mine.”
She feels that Sheriff Tony Mancuso “wants to give everyone an equal chance.” She says he “breeds a family atmosphere.”
She is now quite pleased with the culture in the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office. “I want to be super positive about our office. I love going to work.” She says she tends to put in 60- to 80-hour work weeks.
She feels that women who come into the Sheriff’s Office these days “have people [who are women] to look up to.
“I want to show the world girls can do anything boys can do. That’s how I live my life every day … I want to show that women are making it and changing the world.” These are expressions of “showing others we can do it.”
Thriving On ADRENALINE
If you think this sort of work requires a particular type of personality, you’re correct. McGee says she thrives on “adrenaline” — the very thing most of us work to avoid.
She likes getting the bad guy. She feels satisfied when a case that seems unsolvable comes together.
But she admits the work can be harsh. She finds this is especially the case when those who have been wronged are babies or older people. “I become family with the victims” in those cases, she says. Another harsh sort of case is the kidnapping of children. “I just want to hold those babies.”
“I am passionate about what I do … I love making a difference. I love people. I want to treat them as fairly as they can be treated — as family.”
She thinks many criminals are basically decent people who have made “bad decisions.”
SIERRA BOUZIGARD: A Cold Case Solved By New Tech
In 2009, a 19-year-old female named Sierra Bouzigard was found dead in a ditch in Moss Bluff. McGee started working to solve the crime when she took the matter up as a cold case in 2014.
In 2015, she gained access to a new law enforcement technology — Parabon DNA phenotyping — which creates a picture of a person based on his or her DNA. McGee says that as far as she knows, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office was the first law enforcement group in Louisiana to use the technology.
When the picture of the hypothetical criminal was released in 2017, the Sheriff’s Office received 100 tips on who he might be. “It was a crazy number,” said McGee. The officers had to find ways to eliminate potential suspects.
When they finally homed in on the guilty party, it was “so crazy it almost sounded like it had to be true,” says McGee. The suspect had never been arrested and thus was not in CODIS (the Combined DNA Index System). The Sheriff’s Office would have to get a DNA sample directly from him.
The Narcotics Task Force was asked to get the sample. But the subject was keen to the fact that people were after his DNA and covered his tracks carefully.
One thing working in McGee’s favor was that the subject had never met or seen her or her partner. One night they joined him in a bar for several beers. McGee obtained one of the subject’s empty beer bottles. And that was that. The perpetrator committed suicide shortly after his incarceration began.
The TV program Forensic Files is returning to the air for the first time since 2011. The Sierra Bouzigard case will be the focus of one of the shows, which may air as early as February, 2020.
Among the other pioneering high tech tools being employed by the Sheriff’s Office is the ZetX program, which uses cell phone towers, Google Maps and Geo Earth to identify the location of a particular person at a particular time. “It’s a huge tool in solving crime,” says McGee. “It paints a really pretty picture” that enables the members of a jury to see exactly where a person was at the time.
With geofencing, law enforcement agents can see what electronic devices are running in a certain area. The location of an individual with a particular device can be pinpointed.
Then there is the Faro scanner. This technology scans a crime scene, then creates a 3D image of the scene. The image can “put you into a crime scene,” says McGee. It makes it possible to take a jury and “walk it through a crime scene.”
McGee says this new technology “can get very complicated” and is not always easily or simply explained to the layman.
“All the tech combined with the human element is how we solve crimes in 2019. You still have to have a heart. It takes all that.” The tech doesn’t eliminate the traditional need for the law enforcement officer to put in long hours.
Teamwork And Family
It’s clear that McGee believes that teamwork is essential to law enforcement. Teams are important because they bring different perspectives on a case to the table.
In Violent Crimes, McGee is in charge of a team of seven detectives.
She finds her teamwork is most successful when she’s working with “team people who are not like [her].”
“We’re not like-minded people,” she says. “I don’t want everybody to think like me.”
When she first returned to the office, she was the team member who was certain to be different from others because she “was the only girl for a while.”
Her feelings about teamwork mesh well with her sense that both law enforcement investigation and the treatment of victims should use the dynamics of the devoted family.
For her, law enforcement is literally a family affair. Her husband, Commander James McGee, heads up the enforcement division, which largely deals with officers on patrol. He oversees the work of the majority of officers in the Sheriff’s Office.
“It helps to have someone at home you can explain things to,” says Beth McGee. “He’s seen most of the things I’ve seen.”
McGee was the first female lieutenant in Violent Crimes in the sheriff’s office.
She has now been a Lieutenant of the Violent Crimes Division of the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office for three years.
McGee has other major accomplishments in her record. She was named Detective of the Year in 2016. She had previously been named the Probation Officer for the Southern United States in 2008.
The things about her job that would overwhelm most citizens merely stokes her adrenaline.
And McGee continues to approach law enforcement enthusiastically.
She treats both colleagues and victims as if they were family and she has a powerful desire to help people.