Debra Gauthier followed a dream and became a Police Officer. From the day she walked into the academy to the day she was ran out of the department, it ended in a nightmare, leading her to write “Bright Lights, Dark Places.”
Her memoir is Bright Lights, Dark Places: Pioneering As A Female Police Officer In Las Vegas (July 2011, Tate Publishing). Debra Gauthier begins by introducing herself to the reader: sitting in her backyard, rain pouring down, and her service gun in her lap. She is ready to end it all …
Gauthier joined the Las Vegas Police force in 1980, one of the first women hired under the same standards as men. She reports she was the brunt of sexual harassment, witnessed corruption and illegal activities, and was made the enemy among her fellow officers for reporting it, or “snitching.” Although her career is full of highlights, the darkness led her down some frightening paths.
Until that day in the backyard, Debra Gauthier’s career was marked with accolades. She was the first new female officer since 1974. In 1986, she arrested a Mafia lieutenant during a multi-agency sting. She implemented and led the department’s first bike patrol unit, and the program was used as a blueprint in other departments. Gauthier was the only supervisor to help an alcoholic officer get clean and sober; until then, his drinking problems on duty were ignored. She was the first woman on the Training Academy, supervising staff and recruits. Gauthier is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1995 Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Women of Achievement Award. Always involved in sports, she participated in the Nevada Police Olympics, the Challenge Cup, and Brass Challenge. She shares stories of significant arrests, lives saved, and officers assisted when their lives were on the line.
But none it mattered once the allegations of her “inappropriate behavior” began. She was demoted as a result. She writes how the investigations, allegations, eventual demotion, and career loss affected her health, happiness, and spirituality. It is the latter that is embraced by the last few chapters. Gauthier shares her childhood memories of abusive parents, running away, and drug use. She also explains how, since she was young, she was attracted to females and lived a “gay lifestyle,” causing her family to distance themselves.
On that rainy day in the backyard, she put the gun away with God’s help. She begins a journey to renew her faith, and finds strength and happiness in life. “When I was born again in the spirit my entire perspective changed” (p.153). She forgives those who have hurt her, including an imprisoned family member and the men who had taken her career. “The Holy Spirit began to reveal to me that forgiveness was…releasing these men from my heart so the Lord could deal with them” (p.175). She denounces her homosexuality; “homosexuality (is) sin and not part of God’s creation” (p.169) and “the only way out of homosexuality is through Jesus Christ” (p.196).
The title “Bright Lights, Dark Places” refers to Debra Gauthier’s life as a Las Vegas officer, where she worked the toughest neighborhoods, and also the “witch hunt” by those she trusted. It refers to her being born again, her spiritual rebirth. It reads as if the author is across the table from you, telling her story, over a cup of tea.
The read is confusing at times, with the “Lieutenant Bills” and “Officer Bobs” and “Captain Mikes” as Gauthier cannot use real names, and must resort to titles and first names. While some of the story can be hard to follow, the author’s pain and passion are both real; anyone who has been the victim of workplace harassment will relate.
Debra Gauthier discusses the pain of discrimination, yet once she has been “born again” she tells of witnessing to strangers, advising an Iranian woman Mohamed is a false prophet, notes a “Buddha statue” is a “Hindu occult symbol,” and how homosexuals have “special rights” and are sinners. Is this a double standard? Is she now the person who is discriminating? This question will taunt the reader, leading to either a bright light … or a dark place.
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