Tina Giles, a detective with the East Hampton Town Police Department, is being lauded for cracking one of the town's biggest sex abuse cases.
After a victim came forward in April claiming rape, Fidel Castro-Brito was arrested for the crime. But Giles had a feeling there was more to the case. "Her instincts took over and she knew there was more to it," Chief Ed Ecker said. "It was fantastic police work."
In late November, a Suffolk County grand injury handed down a 70-count felony indictment related to criminal sex acts against three young victims.
"It was a pretty a chilling case," Ecker said. "Even in the DA's office, or with detectives who have been doing this for a long time, no one had ever seen anything like this before," he said.
Due in part to her work on the case, Giles was named the 2012 Officer of the Year. Each year, Ecker asks for input from department supervisors. "Detective Giles was overwhelmingly selected," he said. She will be presented with an award at the annual Kiwanis Club awards ceremony and dinner on Jan. 25.
Giles is a 27-year veteran of the department. "It's her whole body of work," Ecker said. "She was a great cop, a fantastic detective, and a loyal employee," he said.
An East Hampton native, Giles first worked for the department as a traffic control officer in the summers during college. The department made good use of her Spanish-speaking abilities, even then. She got her first taste of police work, helping officers translate.
At the University of Connecticut, she earned a degree in Latin American Studies — "What I was going to do with it? I don't know," she laughed. She wasn't always sure, like many are, that she wanted to be a police officer. "I knew I wanted to wear a uniform," she said, adding that her brother-in-law, Larry Smith, was a town police officer at the time. Perhaps it was the authoritative position, she said.
Giles soon joined the department, just a year after graduating college in 1985. In the interim she worked as a bilingual receptionist at a mental health clinic.
As an officer, she spent five years on patrol before becoming the department's DARE officer in the schools. About 21 years ago, she was promoted to detective — the department's first and still only female detective — taking over the Juvenile Aid Bureau, which handles crimes committed by or against children under the age of 16.
Giles believes it was her language skills — which she refers to as a "proficiency" in Spanish — that helped her rise in the small department so quickly.
Detective Lt. Chris Anderson, who leads the detective division, said, "Tina is extremely dedicated to what she does, she cares about what she does — she's basically the consummate professional."
He agrees with the police chief that it was "her drive, her sixth sense that she had about the strong possibility of being more victims" that led to that 70-count indictment — one of the department's biggest cases ever. In fact, he said, the case took them outside of their jurisdiction, forwarding information to other agencies. "We have secured a 71 count indictment, but that doesn't mean that's all that happened."
Giles is an "invaluable" member of the department, Anderson said, noting that she has helped "bridge a gap" with the Latino community to let them know "we're there to help them and they don't need to be afraid."
Not all small departments have the luxury a detective who speaks Spanish. When just using interpreters, officers may garnish the facts, but there's something that gets lost. "In the detective line of things, a lot rides on how things are said, non-verbal communication, and you lose a lot. It's invaluable to have her on staff."
Giles said there were only three female police officers hired before her. The department currently has seven women officers, Giles remains the only female detective. There are even fewer African-Americans on the job.
"It's hard to find another me; a female, minority, and Spanish speaker," Giles said.
One of the things she likes best about her job is seeing children, who have made mistakes, rebound, whether it's simply graduating from high school or holding down a job. "You see people at their worst, and then, hopefully, you get to see them at their best," she said.
Asked what she's been most proud of during her career, Giles said: "Being able to save people's lives, especially children." As a mother of two — She and her husband of 24 years, Louis O'Neal , are parents to Myra, a 20-year-old student at UConn, and Raya, 16, — it's difficult not to become personally invested in cases "even when you want to take kid/victims home."
While she followed her instincts in the Castro-Brito case, Giles says she does nothing alone. "You need others to help you do your job It takes a whole squad to work."