VANGUARD: Before me I have Lieutenant Rikki Goede, Badge 3354. Is that the highest ranking badge number as a lieutenant in this department?
GOEDE: Probably! I don't know for sure, but I'd say it probably is.
VANGUARD: So how many years do you have on the department?
GOEDE: Here I have a little over 12-October of 2008 was 12 years.
VANGUARD: Okay, and you've been the Commander of the Homicide Unit for how long?
GOEDE: Since the end of January.
VANGUARD: And was that based on some internal movement within the department?
GOEDE: It was. Junior was promoted to Captain and they picked me to replace him.
VANGUARD: So you're called Rikki, but technically your name is Richelle. So why Rikki?
GOEDE: True story-my mom and dad were planning for a boy and had all boy names selected. Along came a girl, and they had no girl names, so they came up with Richelle to name me after my dad who is Richard. But they called me Rikki since day one. I have never been called Richelle-except when I'm in trouble.
VANGUARD: Looking at all your PD paperwork, it all says Richelle, but you've always been Rikki within the department.
GOEDE: Right. When I went to college I thought, I'll grow up and be called Richelle, but it just wasn't me by that time.
VANGUARD: And Rikki sounds better anyway…at least I think it does.
VANGUARD: So anyway, congratulations on being the first female homicide commander in the department's history.
GOEDE: Thank you.
VANGUARD: I didn't do a lot of research, but the talk around the department is that you are the first female.
GOEDE: That's what I've heard.
VANGUARD: And you were also the first female lieutenant for GIU?
GOEDE: So I understand.
VANGUARD: Boy, you're just breaking ceilings left and right.
VANGUARD: So I understand that you're a little shy about talking about yourself-
GOEDE: Yes I am!
VANGUARD: But we're going to get some things out of you here before you leave.
GOEDE: I'm going to make it hard on you, Juan.
VANGUARD: I know you will, but we'll make it work here! So, was it the chief that transferred you or was it Junior Gamez approached you about putting in for the Homicide Unit?
GOEDE: Originally, I had put in for GIU along with Family Violence and Vice Intel. I got called by Chief Galea that I was going to GIU which was a nice surprise, and I loved it-I was having a great time when Junior approached me. He was timing out-as it turned out, he got promoted-and he told me he wanted to give my name as one of the people he thought would do a good job replacing him in the unit. It was very flattering that he approached me, plus I think the fact I was working in GIU for a year was an advantage since a lot of homicides are gang-related, so there was a little bit of the background knowledge there. Next thing I knew, Chief Galea came in and asked me if I was interested in the position, which I was. I got the official call that I was going to homicide when they were doing the movements.
VANGUARD: Who made the call?
GOEDE: Chief Galea called me.
VANGUARD: Wow, well, you've been there now for a little over five months and I'm sure it's been pretty interesting.
GOEDE: It's very interesting. As a commander, you can't ask for a unit with better personnel-I have sergeants and officers who are already proven investigators, so it makes my job very easy.
VANGUARD: We have some specialized and investigative units that work wonders because of who they have in place.
So Rikki, tell us about where you were born and raised.
GOEDE: I am a Midwest girl. I was born in Omaha, Nebraska but I grew up right outside of Kansas City, Missouri. I'm a huge Kansas City Chiefs fan as anyone who knows me will attest.
VANGUARD: I'm sorry about that, but go on.
GOEDE: Yes, and I hate the Oakland Raiders.
VANGUARD: Well, I'm not far behind you there.
GOEDE: If you're a Chiefs' fan, you hate the Raiders.
So I grew up there and went to college in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at Augustana College where I played basketball and ran track. I was hired by Dallas PD initially, but I had three speeding tickets in one year so my application was put on hold and I couldn't start; in the meantime I came out here and tested at San José.
VANGUARD: So why Dallas?
GOEDE: I'm a big believer of recruiting at colleges, especially out in the Midwest, and they came recruiting. I had two majors-journalism and criminal justice-and I tested and was hired, but I had to wait because I drove a Mustang to and from my house and college for seven hours on I-29 in the Midwest and made some record time once in a while!
VANGUARD: So you're a Mustang kinda gal.
GOEDE: I was then! (laughs)
VANGUARD: So what kind of Mustang was it?
GOEDE: I had the Turbo SVO. It was a college graduation gift from my folks, and it was a blast to drive, I have to tell you.
VANGUARD: So you tested for San José after Dallas. Why?
GOEDE: I had always loved Northern California and heard San Jose was hiring, and they paid very well, too, back then. I think I was one of 1,000 people who tested back in '85 or '86. I made the eligibility list-I think I was 150 on the list-and while I was here, someone had said something about San Diego hiring. I had never been to San Diego and I thought it was too much like L.A., which I couldn't stand. Didn't think anything of it. I went back and was talking to my criminal justice professor who was a 16-year veteran of the Sioux Falls PD and was asking his advice. I really wanted to work for San José over Dallas, and he said he thought I would get hired. Well, San Diego came up in the conversation and he literally made me promise I would go to San Diego and check it out and test. I did, and when I got off the plane it was 72º and there's the water and the beach, and I fell in love with it…and they hired me three months later. Then San José called me. I had just gotten out of the academy and had finished FTO and was assigned to Eastern division, and San José called with an offer. By that time, I had made friends in San Diego and was happy, so I turned it down, even though I probably would have doubled my salary right there. And who knew, 12 years later?
VANGUARD: So you started your career with San Diego in '86? And how long were you there?
GOEDE: Just shy of 11 years.
VANGUARD: I understand that when you lateraled over to us, you were a sergeant there.
GOEDE: I was-I was in narcotics at the time. I know a lot of people ask why I left San Diego…
VANGUARD: So let's answer that: Why did you leave San Diego? Isn't it true that you were one of the "anointed ones?" That you were working your way up?
GOEDE: I don't know about "anointed," but I had a good reputation down there. My career was definitely moving right along and I loved the PD. When I retire, I think I'll be blessed to say that I've worked for arguably the two best police departments in the state, and probably two of the best in the country, so I feel very fortunate in that regard. But I had been in a 13-year relationship and unfortunately the person who I was with died unexpectedly, and when you go through something like that, it's an understatement to say it's a life-changing experience.
VANGUARD: So how did you work through that?
GOEDE: My faith, my family, and I had great friends there-that's another reason it was so hard to leave the department-the people in the PD were so supportive of me. I ran a lot and worked through it with counseling. You know, the normal ways people work through grief. Then a year later I started seeing someone who lived up here in San José and the relationship developed to the point where someone was going to have to make the move and it just seemed that it was more conducive for me to do that, and so here I am. I made that decision, and leaving SDPD and starting over was probably the hardest decision I've ever made in my life. But this was the only department I considered leaving San Diego for. There was no other agency I was interested in.
VANGUARD: Who was the Chief of Police for San Diego then?
GOEDE: At that time it was Jerry Sanders who's now the mayor. Sanders was my lieutenant in the academy, my captain at my first command and then he was the chief when I left, and he was great. He took me aside right before I left and said if it didn't work out up here, there was always a spot for me in San Diego which made it a little bit easier to leave. I knew that if I absolutely hated it up here, I could go back.
VANGUARD: What other units did you work in San Diego?
GOEDE: I did narcotics, vice, field ops admin, but for seven of my 12 years there, I was in patrol. I worked Eastern Division in East San Diego, loved it. Now it's Mid City and Eastern-it's been split into two divisions-but they are still the busiest divisions in San Diego. I had a blast.
VANGUARD: How do they compare to us?
GOEDE: It's very different because we're centralized and they're decentralized. They're up to 12 divisions now; there were ten when I was there. I was at the Eastern division, and you could work for SDPD for 20 years and run into someone at the sally port or the jail, and never have seen the person before in your life, especially if you spent all your time at Eastern and that person was working Northeastern. In that regard, it's much more familial here, which I like. It's very separated in San Diego, but as far as the kind of people that work for the departments, the types of cities, the caliber and professionalism of the people, it's very similar. Good people in both and a little busier down there-it's a little bigger than San José, but not much-but it's really spread out. San José is a lot more compact. We don't have the canyons they do down there. They have huge canyons, so if you're driving down a street, all of a sudden you run into a canyon, and the rest of the street's a mile away, you've got to know where you're going as far as the hundred blocks. That was a favorite thing for the FTO's to do to the new officers-purposely let them go the wrong way.
VANGUARD: So being out in the canyons like that, how were the radios?
GOEDE: We didn't have too many problems with the radio reception. The helicopters were huge as were the K-9 units. We wouldn't have survived in San Diego without the helicopters and they're 24/7 down there. When I left, San Diego had just shy of 2,500 officers, and I think they're at 2,300. Some people wonder if I had a premonition because right after I left, all of the retirement scandals with the city council hit and it was fortuitous timing on my part.
VANGUARD: Looking at San Diego, I think they have the best weather in the state.
GOEDE: Oh gosh yes, but I hike and ski, so I like Northern California much better. I'm happy up here. I loved the SDPD, but you can have Southern California. I hike, I collect wine, I ski-everything I love to do is up here and it's all just a few hours away.
VANGUARD: This is probably the best place to live.
GOEDE: I think so! So to make a long story short, the whole reason I came up here was for my personal life. I'm still in that same relationship 13 years later, I'm very happy to say, and it has been a great move. I always tell each team that I supervise that their personal lives have to be the most important thing. You should always do 110% at work, but you better have your priorities straight.
VANGUARD: I support you on that. You're right. As much as we may love being police officers or investigators, the job can get to you if you let it, and family has to be the priority. I think it's crucial. I think a lot of officers would love to have a commander that thought that way. I know a lot of commanders do, but it's nice to hear it up front. If someone's not 100% mentally or physically healthy and ready to go, it's not going to work.
GOEDE: From a commander perspective, you hit the nail on the head. That support system outside of the job better be the most important thing and it better be really solid, or you don't have a good employee. You need to appreciate that part of someone or else everything will suffer and you won't get the best from your people if they're not happy outside of work.
VANGUARD: When you lateraled over, it was the talk of the department. It was huge!
GOEDE: Oh my God, and I thought, You know, no one's gonna know me, I'll be able to fly under the radar, I'm not going to tell anybody I was a sergeant. I was so naïve; I may as well have had my whole history stamped on my forehead. I got asked so many questions…
VANGUARD: I was working SAIU at the time and we heard we had an FTO lateral, sergeant demoted, took a demotion to come here as an officer-can you FREAKING BELIEVE THAT??
VANGUARD: Obviously there was a good reason for it.
GOEDE: It's funny because obviously it's worked out. My friends say, Wow, that took guts. But the way I looked at it is if I could be successful one place, why couldn't I be successful in another place? If you really have what it takes, it doesn't matter where you work. Either I was going to trust in my abilities and make it work or else I wasn't who I thought I was.
VANGUARD: So how was the FTO program for you here?
GOEDE: It was great. I didn't know what to expect when I came, but I had Jeff Sun as my first FTO who was awesome.
VANGUARD: Mr. Laidback.
GOEDE: Perfect. Jeff was like, I'm not going to teach you anything. You already know how to do the job. What he did was teach me the San José way. He gave me that inside information of where to go in the Bureau and in the DA's office-the kind of things that someone who's been around the block wants to know, not how to write a triple-nickel or whatever. He told me where to go to get a search warrant, that kind of stuff.
Then I had Dave Fritz-we were like partners. I've never laughed so hard as I did when I was sitting in a car with Dave Fritz-great guy. Then I had Ron Hughes. You know, I love Ron. To this day he's a very good friend, and people think Ron is so quiet-Ron's got a wicked sense of humor.
VANGUARD: Especially when there's a 415 fight going on.
GOEDE: Oh, yeah! (laughs)
VANGUARD: All you see is a guy leaping over everyone else and getting involved.
GOEDE: In a pinch, I want Ron Hughes there. I'll tell you that right now.
VANGUARD: Matter of fact, I need to get a hold of him because that guy has done some phenomenal things. Most people don't know that much about him because he's a quiet guy.
GOEDE: He's incredible. You're talking about an Olympian wrestler-
VANGUARD: Numerous times over.
GOEDE: This is the guy. You're exactly right. I had the great fortune for a month to ride with him on mid's, and we talked a lot and learned a lot about each other and he's fascinating.
VANGUARD: He is. I worked mid's with that guy and he's awesome.
GOEDE: One of my favorite people by far.
VANGUARD: Just don't push the wrong button.
VANGUARD: I'd hate to be held in a chokehold by that guy.
GOEDE: He's the one you want there when things go bad.
VANGUARD: So what did you do here once you got out of the FTO program?
GOEDE: I was in patrol for only six months, and I broke my finger playing softball. I ended up in modified duty in the Entertainment Zone with Jeff Koslowski. I remember at the time it was Captain Torres, who later became DC, who approached me saying that they wanted an officer assigned over there, too-it was Tuck and Jeff at the time-and he wanted to know if there was enough work for two people. He put me over there on modified, and I told him there really wasn't enough work for two people, but it was still too much for just one, so you're caught. They then of course asked for me to stay there which I thought, at the time, would be the kiss of death reputation-wise-six months on the department and now I'm in the Entertainment Zone-I needed to be out in the field. God bless Ralph Torres, because he called me into the office and said the same thing. I could have hugged him. He put me back out on patrol on Raul Martinez, Sr.'s FTO team. I was a non-FTO on an FTO team-had a blast. Worked with John Dokter, Mike Lloyd and had a great time. Then Torres got promoted to DC and Tom Brewer became the captain and the first thing they did was hit him up to assign an officer in the Entertainment Zone-they said, "We want Rikki,"-next thing you know I've got a lieutenant and a captain calling me at home saying they want me over at the Entertainment Zone, and you're not gonna say no to a captain, so I didn't, and I was there for a year, and it was great because of the company. I worked for Koz and then Jeff Smith until he went to IA, and then they brought in Bob Obos, so you can't get much more different personalities in supervisors than that! I asked Tuck, "What are you trying to do to me here?" But they were all great guys, and I had a lot of fun with all of them.
From there I went back out to patrol and worked in District Charles and then went to Community Services. I had an opportunity to go teach in the schools which was something I had always wanted to do, so I tested and worked there for three years. I was in charge of the C-2 Program. Loved it. At that time it became a state mandate that all middle schools had to do sexual harassment training, so I put together training and presented it in over 30 schools-still present it at a couple of schools today. Teaching is something I might pursue after retirement since I've found I enjoy it as much as this job.
After that I went back to patrol as an FTO and then got promoted to sergeant. I went back to patrol as a sergeant and had a blast, and then I went to IA.
VANGUARD: Was it a shoulder tap?
GOEDE: I guess so. I was called by Dave Cavallaro, the lieutenant at the time, and was asked if I was interested, which I was. It's not a fun job. Anyone who enjoys IA is crazy, but you will never learn more than working in IA. I did that for two years and worked with a great group of people, and that made it fun.
I got the best advice prior to going there from Lori Rogers and Nick Muyo who were rotating out as we were coming in. They said, "Always remember that officers will come up here and may get in trouble for certain things, but they'll forget what they did wrong, how much discipline they received, and even what the discipline was. But the one thing they'll never forget is how they were treated in that office." It was advice I took to heart and have passed on many times since then, and it's completely true. I think I made a few enemies-everyone will coming out of IA because you're in a bad position-but I think you can easily come out of that office well if you treat people fairly and respectfully and do the right thing. I was very fortunate to be up there with a good group of people, and I learned a lot and we did a lot of good.
VANGUARD: I think that goes with anything in life. It's how you treat those above and below you and around you. In a recent article I wrote, I talk about friendships, and it's not all about work. We're all individuals-it's how you treat that person.
GOEDE: Very true.
VANGUARD: I think by treating someone with respect and understanding where they're coming from, even though they know they're going to walk out with a day or DOC or whatever, it's the respect and the handshake at the end.
GOEDE: Don't sweat it, you'll survive this.
VANGUARD: Life goes on, and this is just a bump in the road. Move on and deal with it. But you're right, it's that face-to-face that will carry on. Those are the faces they're going to see throughout their career.
GOEDE: And it was an interesting two years because we were dealing with Barbara Attard at the IPA. Officers are doing good work by and large in this department, and I took a lot of satisfaction during my two years in IA knowing that we're a department that does things the right way. We don't have rogue cops and problem children. We have cops that want to go out and do a good job. Every once in a while they get in situations where they have to use force or be rude to people, and I can tell you that 99% of the time, it's completely justified. There's a lot of satisfaction in being able to prove that what they did was right on.
VANGUARD: And they know that by coming in they're going to create a little stress in your life, and that's normal.
GOEDE: If I learned one thing in IA, it's how crucial that patrol sergeant spot is. That patrol sergeant going out right away and interviewing people-I can't tell you how many times that has made the difference in an investigation. I always go back to one of the first use of force investigations I did. Mike Evans was the supervisor, and he did everything right. He interviewed the suspect right away in the patrol car, he made sure his guys tape recorded everything, including the victim because it was a 273.5. The upshot of the whole thing was this suspect comes in with the gal that he 273.5'd and of course they changed their whole story, but because Mike had done what he should have as a supervisor, the facts were locked down and it was an easy case to exonerate and write up.
VANGUARD: Back then when you were in IA-I don't know about now-what was the turnaround time on those cases?
GOEDE: It depended on the case. If there were a lot of civilian and officer witnesses, it could take longer than the clear-cut ones. You also have to consider that we might have been done with the case in a month, but then it has to go through the process of being reviewed by the IPA, and they would take forever sometimes. If they disagreed, which happened a lot during my time there, they'd have to go through their rebuttal process. In the two years I was there, it was a really stressful time for those of us who were up there. I know what the Chief and Tuck Younis, who was AC then, went through, and how often they went to bat for officers. I don't think a lot of that got out as much as it should have, because we were getting disagreements on everything. Phan Ngo was the commander at the time, and he was writing one rebuttal after another. It was stressful. For the first time in my life I had high blood pressure.
VANGUARD: I've got a lot of friends that have been supervisors at IA and every time we get together, they tell me it's not a fun place to be.
VANGUARD: They're doing the right thing and all of a sudden, they're having to answer to other issues, and you're right, no one thinks it's the best job on the planet.
GOEDE: If they think it is, they need to have their head examined.
VANGUARD: I feel for you.
GOEDE: Don't get me wrong, though, you do learn a lot and you don't ever fear any administrative investigation, because you know the whole process. It's good, too, when you become a lieutenant, and you are assigned findings and recs on one of your officers. I had some findings and recs that came back and I know that just because an IA investigator sends a case to the chain, that doesn't mean it's automatically a sustained complaint. There are always different ways to look at things, and you might find the actions of the officers to be justified. It can be very beneficial to commanders to have that IA experience.
VANGUARD: I think it's something that all supervisors and sergeants should go through.
GOEDE: I do, too, much like I think anyone who wants to be a sergeant should be an FTO; I think FTO should be a pre-req for sergeants. To move on as a commander, I think the IA stint was a great training ground for that.
VANGUARD: I agree. And after IA?
GOEDE: I was day detective and then promoted to lieutenant in 2006. My first stint was patrol for a year and then to GIU for a year and now I'm in homicide.
VANGUARD: As the commander of the Homicide Unit, can you tell me a little about it and its inner workings?
GOEDE: The unit has 12 investigators; there are nine sergeants and three officers, and the Crime Scene Unit with one sergeant and six Crime Scene Unit officers; you have night and day detectives. They just recently moved day detectives from Robbery over to Homicide, which was a good move. There are five night detectives and four day detectives, so that's the make up of the unit. We handle all homicides and child deaths, and all suicides-attempted and successful-go through our office, and all unattended deaths as well. A lot of times, what appears to be a straight-up suicide or straight-up natural death may not be. The day detectives and night detectives will respond to that, and it's so important because later on, when the autopsy comes back, it may raise a red flag. I'm learning very quickly that a person can have trauma that is not visible, but the autopsy reveals something else. That comes back and the case is re-opened. Sometimes the initial patrol response to that unattended death is all we have to start with, so it becomes very important for patrol to take those calls and investigate them thoroughly.
VANGUARD: Do you read all the cases that come through your office since you're the lieutenant?
GOEDE: No, not like in GIU where I would read all the 245's that would come through-mostly because I respond to the actual scenes on all the homicides, so the sergeants and officers will take their cases and keep them, but I already know all the details because I'm there working it at the outset with the investigators. As far as the unattended deaths, no. There are too many of them. I'll only get them and read them if we get something back from the Coroner's Office that identifies an inconsistency. That's where the night detectives and day detectives are huge. Junior Gamez implemented something in Homicide where if there wasn't a clear indication of neglect or abuse or something to make a child death appear suspicious, the night detectives and day detectives were trained to handle that, where before, we would always respond the homicide investigators. I think it's a great way to do it. It frees up some of the investigators' time and gives the night and day detectives a great opportunity to get experience, and they're really good at it.
VANGUARD: So far this year, how many homicide cases are there?
GOEDE: We're officially at ten, but we've had some recent activity where victims are on life support. We had the guy that was punched outside of Little Caesar's and then the guy who was shot the next night. Technically we're at ten but I think we're going to be at 12.
VANGUARD: And last year?
GOEDE: We had 14 at this same time.
VANGUARD: Okay, so we're almost in line.
GOEDE: We had a particularly busy February last year; for whatever reason, there were a lot of homicides in 2008 that month.
VANGUARD: A lot of broken hearts?
GOEDE: Uh, yeah.
GOEDE: You're bad.
VANGUARD: Okay, so being the commander of the Homicide Unit, you obviously have a budget-
VANGUARD: that you oversee-
GOEDE: That we TRY to adhere to? Again, we're very blessed because this department and really in B of I in general-when we need to do what we need to do, the command staff does an amazing job, and by that I mean the captains and chiefs, of getting us money in order for us to do our jobs.
VANGUARD: So who is your captain?
GOEDE: Pete Decena. He's great. I don't want him to get a big head or anything, but he's very good to work for. I'm very happy.
VANGUARD: And your deputy chief?
GOEDE: I have Don Anders right now. It was Andy Galea until the recent swap.
VANGUARD: And has he skipped a beat at all? DC Anders?
GOEDE: No. Things are moving right along. B of I is one of the bureaus that runs itself. You need to stay on top of it from a budget standpoint, but you're talking about great officers and sergeants that work up there. I am constantly amazed at the work that gets done in all the units. You sit through staff and you hear what everyone is doing with so few resources for the size of our city; we have guys and gals that are working their butts off up in the bureau. They'll come back voluntarily to work cases; I never had any problem in GIU getting guys to come back and work things. I believe we'd have much higher crime stats were it not for the dedication that these officers show; and patrol too, because it wouldn't work without the teamwork. That's what I'm seeing in homicide more than anything-how much BFO patrol works with us.
VANGUARD: On the same note, Rikki, it all comes down to how our officers enjoy working for their sergeants and commanders. If you're there, always supporting them and working as a team instead of individuals, then I don't think you'll ever have that problem of officers coming back to work and being called in because they enjoy the environment they're in.
GOEDE: It's a great point. My background in sports has served me well in the area of teamwork, specifically in this profession. I believe in the concept of teamwork from top-down; it has to be a team effort.
VANGUARD: Absolutely, and I think up in the bureau, you're in those team surroundings and everything has to work just right for it to really click and move forward.
So what is our closure rate thus far on homicide cases?
GOEDE: We were at 80% before these last two incidents, and we're making good progress on those as well. The last four months have been a lot of work; my phone rings and I cringe. But I've had some of the most fun I've had in my career, doing these investigations and watching some of the investigators-Pete Ramirez, Mike Brown, Tony Mata-you just step back and don't get in their way. They're so good at what they do. It's been a lot of fun. It's like peeling an onion; one of the best cases was the body dump on Braxton Court. We had nothing to go on initially. If you had told me at 5am when we got called out to that scene that we would solve that case by midnight, I would have laughed at you. And yet, that teamwork was critical. Next thing you know, Special Ops is up in the office offering to track down people. We'd give them names and, literally, 20 minutes later they were delivering the people to us. It was great. We needed the suspect car found. I called Doug Grant, because we believed the car was in his district, and 30 minutes later, they had the car. It was amazing. We'd put what we needed out there; guys working in BFO were finding it and that teamwork was clicking. 18 hours later, we'd identified and arrested the suspects.
VANGUARD: I think a lot of this is stuff that goes on within a department, and people on the outside don't know about it. You know, how hard these sergeants and officers work.
GOEDE: Nope, they have no idea.
VANGUARD: God forbid, if I was a victim or the father of a victim, and all of a sudden you've got SJPD responding, knowing that you've got an 80-90% closure rate, that this case is gonna get solved. I imagine we're above and beyond other departments of our size.
GOEDE: By far.
VANGUARD: I think we've always been in the high 70's, low 80's percentile for closure.
GOEDE: Historically we've always been very high. And we're almost a victim of our own successes at times in the sense that the powers-to-be in the city look at us and think we're doing fine. All of us know how badly we need more officers, but we do such a good job on this department of taking care of business with what we have; putting in that extra mile and our awesome teamwork lets us make things happen with far fewer resources. We're way below in staffing what San Diego is, and they were very well run and had good homicide clearance, too. It's a real testament to the work we do, but people get a false sense of security thinking we don't need any more cops, because we have more than enough to get things done, and we know that's not true.
VANGUARD: So as a commander, if you were given carte blanche to have anything you wanted so you could take the burden off of all these guys who are working thousands of hours of overtime each month…
GOEDE: (laughs) The overtime is crazy in my unit. We get a weekend where there are 2-3 homicides, and you wipe out my unit.
VANGUARD: Do you usually have certain officers or sergeants like SAIU on-call and when you have multiple homicides, do you have to call in additional teams?
GOEDE: That's exactly right. You have a team of two investigators who are on-call, and then you have a back-up on-call, and if it's a particularly in-depth case with a lot of witnesses, then you might call your back-up team in. In the case of an OIS, you're almost always going to call the back-up in. Then once that team gets a homicide, they'll work it until there are no more leads to follow. I'm not exaggerating when I say there's been one case in particular where the two investigators were there for 43 hours after the incident. I literally had to send them home; they needed to go home and get some rest. They were back 3-4 hours later; that's the part that our citizenry doesn't see. Once that team is up, even though they might be on call for a week, they're busy working that case, so you're going to take them off-call and the next team comes up. If you've got six teams and you get 3-4 incidents in one week, you can exhaust your resources. Luckily we don't have a lot of that happening, but we had one night with Junior, just last year, when there were three homicides in one night, and that's the killer. No pun intended.
VANGUARD: You have nine sergeants and three officers. What kind of work are they assigned to?
GOEDE: They're actual investigators, partnered up with the sergeant that they work with, which I think is kind of neat. A lot of agencies use officers to do the work and they have sergeants head the team, but here we pair them up. I think it's a great way to do it-gives your officers some experience and the sergeants that want to work homicide get to. It's a good position, so you have a lot that can get that experience.
VANGUARD: How's the Crime Scene Unit coming along?
GOEDE: It's great. You talk about a unit that requires some special knowledge-
VANGUARD: Isn't that the Over-the-Hill gang? Isn't that where we put all the old folks?
GOEDE: (laughs) Poor Fred and Steve-
VANGUARD: I didn't say Fred, okay, and I didn't say Steve-
GOEDE: I tease Fred because he's getting ready to go have some surgery on his arm, but we're probably going to lose Steve pretty quickly here. He's going to retire, and it's going to be a huge loss. Steve's been great over there; the team loves him. Whoever replaces Steve is going to have some big shoes to fill. That's what we do on this department, though-people leave, we bring someone else in and we don't skip a beat. I always tell people, Don't get too full of yourself working this job, because there's always someone who can do your job just as well, if not better.
VANGUARD: Absolutely, and I think that's what's nice about the movement and the transfers. Sometimes it's good to move on and do something different, and it allows someone else to step in and try new things.
GOEDE: That's an important thing; San Diego does not have a rotation policy, and I know people here complain about it, but having worked under both systems, there is no way I would want to see this department go back to non-rotation. I know guys that were working homicide for ten years; they're still working it 22 years later. There are guys that are still in the Narco Unit from when I left, and they're very one-dimensional. They're great at what they do-don't get me wrong-but they're static. Here we have guys out in patrol that have incredible experience in gangs, they might have been in crime scene, they might be former homicide investigators, robbery detectives-it's an incredible knowledge base that you don't have if you don't use that rotation system.
VANGUARD: I think that's what makes the supervisor's job a lot easier out in patrol-the experience of the people out there.
GOEDE: Without question.
VANGUARD: The expertise that an officer can bring to a team when a shooting goes down, let's say-you have an officer that's worked in GIU or Metro and is familiar with and knows how to do things, compared to having young officers come on with no experience. Just having the vast majority of the guys in patrol being from the bureau and so forth is huge. It's an asset, and I think the sergeants like that. It's makes life simple.
VANGUARD: So tell me about cold cases. Are there any currently?
GOEDE: Right now, we have two sergeants dedicated to cold cases, but come shift change, one of them-Tommy Morales-will rotate out, so it's a good opportunity for him to work some cold cases and get caught up on some of his other cases to get ready to rotate. So I did it just these past six months as an experimental basis; it's been good, and they're making some great progress on a few cold cases. The problem is, now that we're starting to get a little busier, it kills the unit to take that extra team out of the on-call rotation, so we'll probably have to put them back in. As time permits, we're always working cold cases. Ideally, my wish would be to have the staffing to build another team that's specifically for cold cases. That would be great.
VANGUARD: How's your relationship with the DA's Office?
GOEDE: It's great. I work with Dana Overstreet and David Tomkins and we work a lot with Mark Duffy and his crew, too, on gang-related homicides. I worked with Mark when I was in GIU, so I've had no complaints with the DA's Office; I think they work really well with us. Do we disagree sometimes? Yeah, every family disagrees, but they are part of our law enforcement family.
VANGUARD: So are you playing any sports right now within the department?
GOEDE: No, I've finally retired for good from softball. I realized I was too old to do some of that stuff. I just don't recover as quickly! I love to ski and I hike-I think that's one of my favorite things to do to decompress.
VANGUARD: You do that in all your spare time?
GOEDE: (laughs) Yeah! In fact, I'll go hiking every weekend. I'll tell my guys that there may be 20-30 minutes where I'm out of cell phone range when I'm hiking with my dogs. I love to hike, and then I collect wine and love wine tasting.
VANGUARD: So Rikki, what are some of your goals? I know your number one goal is to-
GOEDE: Retire healthy!
VANGUARD: There you go!
GOEDE: Really, that's my number one goal.
VANGUARD: Any goals in Homicide Unit?
GOEDE: That unit is a well-oiled machine, Juan. I can't say enough about the caliber of people that are working up there; makes my life very easy. Eventually it would be nice to have the cold case staff that I mentioned earlier. Now that we've done it with the two, I can see that there's a lot of promise for that, and with the new DNA and in-roads we've made over the years, if we could actually have the time to start going through some of those cases, we might find that it's just a matter of going back and retesting something, and boom, we've solved the case. The problem is we just don't have the time or the staffing to do that.
VANGUARD: Couldn't bring in any retired cops?
GOEDE: I'd love to! That's some of the stuff we run into with the POA to negotiate-I've love to do that.
VANGUARD: I just thought it might be a phenomenal place to put three retired ex-homicide investigators.
GOEDE: Oh, yeah-probably a lot of them that would love to do it, too. I think it's a great idea.
VANGUARD: Well, food for thought. So Rikki, I want to personally thank you. I know you're a busy lady, and we've been sitting here today with baited breath, waiting for the verdict in the Fontana case…and really, the interview wasn't THAT bad, was it?
GOEDE: Mmmmmm, no.
VANGUARD: So thanks very much. You're well-known in this department, and you've taken on a huge unit here that seems to be working extremely well, and I think with your background and your expertise and your compassion for the officers, it's been a great fit. What I like about you is that your personal life comes first.
GOEDE: It does.
VANGUARD: This job will be here, and someone will always replace you. And I think you said it right-the most important thing is to retire healthy.
GOEDE: Very true. Retire healthy and with a great group of friends and family that you like spending time with-that's the next chapter you're looking for. You want to be healthy and happy.
VANGUARD: I want to thank you again; it's been a pleasure. Best of luck in your career.
GOEDE: Thank you very much, Juan. It's been a pleasure.
[Ah, I survived!]