Q: Anyone who hears the phrase "criminal investigator" will likely think of what they've seen on the television show CSI. So let's set the record straight: What is the job of a real criminal investigator like?
A: It's something which changes every day, depending on the type of case I'm working on. Unlike with the CSI folks, who are crime scene investigators, I don't get assigned a case until after someone has been arrested and charged by the district attorney. I then begin locating witnesses and conducting interviews with them, gathering medical information, securing autopsy photos and reports, diagramming crime scenes, canvassing neighborhoods, taking injury photographs, subpoenaing witnesses, requesting telephone and video surveillance records, and whatever else is deemed necessary in order to assist in the adjudication process. My job is ultimately to find out who saw what and conduct a thorough and independent followup to much of the work done by the police.
Q: You have a bachelor's degree in social welfare and you earned your JD from UC Hastings College of Law. How did your degrees help prepare you for this job?
A: My BA in social welfare was instrumental because it helped me land my first job in the criminal justice field, which was as an institutional counselor for the probation department. Working there helped me to realize that I wanted to do more in this field, however I would not have been able to move forward without additional education. I decided to go to law school while working evenings and weekends as a juvenile probation officer. Upon completion of law school I entered the field of criminal investigations.
The education I received while attending UC Hastings College of Law has been critical to my success as an investigator. The foundation provided by my legal education ensures that I am able to fully understand the burden of proof, am aware of constitutional rights and responsibilities, and am well versed on laws pertaining to admissibility of evidence. Each of these provide an integral component to my success as an investigator.
Q: Every job has its best days and its worst days. What was the best day on the job for you -- and the worst?
A: My best days are when I can have a heart to heart conversation with a witness and end up inspiring them or saying something which makes them feel empowered. More often than not a witness is not particularly happy to speak with me and may be reluctant to come forward with information. When I am able to connect with a witness, and watch as their guard slowly lowers and they become more comfortable and relaxed with me, I know it's gonna be a great day.
My worst day was meeting with the coroner regarding a recent child homicide case and being unable to get the visual out of my head of the little girl, who was almost the same age as my own daughter, laying on the autopsy table in a diaper with two puffy pony tails in her hair. All of the witnesses statements that I took regarding this incident were extremely disturbing, and at the conclusion of the case, I closed my file, put my head down on my desk, and cried.
Q: You're also a model. That's a far cry from being a criminal investigator, isn't it? How did the modeling come about?
A: I wrote a book several years ago about how to investigate infidelity in your marriage. I took publicity photos for the book, one of which was submitted to a modeling agency, and I was subsequently called in for an interview. After meeting with the agency director they signed me as "talent," and that is what jump started my little side modeling career.
Modeling has become an amazing diversion from my regular job because I can go from a crime scene, to a photo shoot, and back to tracking a homicide witness all within the same day. With these types of careers I feel it is essential for one to have some sort of stress free, non-work related outlet, such as modeling is for me, in order to better deal with the daily range of emotions brought on by such an intense profession.
Q: Many people go into a particular career with misconceptions about what it will be like. What surprised you the most about your job as a criminal investigator?
A: I was most surprised by how easy it is for a woman to be successful in this field, which people probably assume is more suited for men. There have been times when I am able to get information from a witness that my male counterpart was unable to obtain. Women tend to be viewed as less threatening as a whole, which removes the posturing which can often occur between males when approaching a reluctant witness.
I find that when speaking with rape victims or mothers of murdered children, an instant connection is made, woman to woman/mom to mom, and barriers are often dropped. You see, this type of job is not really about being "tough" or "cop like" but rather about being the type of person who makes people feel comfortable providing information that's often extremely sensitive and difficult to share with a stranger.
Q: Is there anything you would like to say about the awesome job you have?
A: If you don't want to be stuck behind a desk each day, or forced to spend hours on end staring at a computer screen, and generally like working with people in the community, then this might be a career worth looking in to. The entire city is my "office," and I get to meet a different person every day. I like the freedom of being able to schedule my day according to my needs and the needs of the court, which is why as a mother of school-aged children this career choice works out perfectly for me. Plus, I get paid well, as this is a six-figure profession.
More about Danine Manette
What did you eat for breakfast? Oregon Sweet Chai Tea, a warm croissant and a banana
Which day of the week is your favorite? Friday!
Which day of the week is your least favorite? Monday
What was the first job you ever had? A babysitter for Dougie Bug's cat
What makes you angry? When people hurt children or when adults who are supposed to protect children fail to do so
What makes you joyful? Small love notes my baby girl slips into my purse
If you could have any job, other than your own, what would it be? A high school American government teacher
If you had the time and the money to study anything at all, what would you choose? Cooking!
What did you want to be when you grew up? A nurse
Can money bring you happiness? Yes, if you use some of the money to help right a societal wrong