By Steve Bertel
In the early ’60s, the Los Angeles Police Department adopted the motto “To protect and to serve” – a phrase that has subsequently been used by police departments all across the country. But for retired Nampa Police Department detective Angela Weekes, her motto is not only “to protect and to serve,” but also “to survive and thrive.”
Born and raised in Emmett, Idaho, “I always believed in God, even though my family seldom went to church,” she recalls. “So I never remember a point in my life when I didn’t know Jesus was my savior.”
But her walk with the Lord has not always been easy. When Angela was eleven, her father was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident. “And that was one of the biggest tests of my faith,” she admits. “I really questioned whether God was real or, if He was real, why had He allowed this to happen? So I was really struggling with my anger toward God back then.”
As a result of the accident, Angela and her older sister were raised by their mother.
During that time, perhaps to strengthen her faith, “I remember my grandparents would take me to church. My grandmother was a very spiritual woman; in fact, she was the first person who taught me how to read the Bible,” says Angela. “My mom had given me my father’s Bible – a King James Version, which was really hard for me to understand – but my grandmother sat me down with that Bible one day and said, ‘Just open it. Open the pages and trust where God is leading you. Just read what He puts in front of you.’ So I started doing that … and I gradually became more and more familiar with it.” To the point where, “I learned enough to know I wanted God in my life.”
Years later, while attending Boise State University, Angela enrolled in a criminal justice class simply on a friend’s recommendation. “I had never even heard of criminal justice before,” she notes. “But I thought I would take the class, anyway.” One of her out-of-the-classroom assignments involved going on a ride-along with a Boise Police officer. “I had never considered going into law enforcement but, after that first ride-along, I was hooked! We went out on a domestic violence call and on a man-with-a-gun call, both of which should have terrified me. But they didn’t. Instead, the adrenaline hit me. And I told the officer, ‘You mean you actually get paid to do this?’”
As result of that adrenaline hit, Angela graduated from Boise State with a criminal justice degree and, in 1994, was hired by – “and fell in love with,” as she puts it – the Nampa Police Department. One of her first jobs was to work undercover as a teenager, even though she was 23 at the time. “They thought I looked young enough to go back to high school. So I worked for several months with a local multi-agency narcotics unit to do a 21 Jump Street-like program at Caldwell High.”
Posing as a student, she attended classes, took tests, did her homework – and bought illegal drugs. “We ended up making sixteen arrests during that time and I turned over names of some thirty students I either suspected or knew were involved in the drug scene,” she recalls. After that, Angela “graduated” to working undercover in area bars, “buying methamphetamines or cocaine or whatever people wanted to sell me,” … then later became one of the Nampa Police Department’s school resource officers, introducing grade schoolers to the nationwide DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.
“That’s when I started really getting involved with child abuse investigations,” she says, “because I have always been super-passionate about those cases.” So much so that, in 2002, Angela became one of the Department’s full-time child abuse investigators. At first, though, she had a hard time with it. “I didn’t understand the dynamics of sexual assault and domestic violence. I’d tell God, ‘I can’t believe you took me, of all people, to do this work.’ And I’d be lying to say those cases didn’t affect me. You cannot see people dying or hurt or watch all the suffering in this community and not have it impact your life. But because of my faith, and only because of my faith, I was able to mentally get through it.”
Among all the horrific cases she has handled, two in particular had the greatest impact on her: the beating death of three-year-old Ellen Sinclair, killed by a man who, according to Angela, had had 68 prior contacts with police … and a baby named Natasha Duarté, who was left blind and unable to speak after being shaken by her babysitter. “Those cases dramatically changed my life … and the course of my career,” she points out. Because, in October of that year, Angela was sent to San Diego to teach at a police academy, where she also had the opportunity to tour that city’s Family Justice Center, the first in the country.
She was so impressed, so touched by what she saw through the services the San Diego Center provided, she immediately set out to establish a similar center in Nampa. She remembers being asleep in her hotel room when “God woke me up in the middle of the night and, before He let me go back to sleep, I had an eight-page strategic plan written up of how I was going to start a Family Justice Center in Nampa! That’s how God speaks to me. I often wake up in the middle of the night with a great inspiration, a great vision from Him. So I came back home and started working on the concept of starting a Family Justice Center here in Nampa.”
Even though Angela had the support of the police chief and her commanding officers, and utilized what one co-worker called her “bulldog work ethic,” she says “I had no clue what I was doing. I had no experience in writing grants or developing programs.” In fact, trying to establish the Center while still carrying a full caseload became so challenging for her “I remember I was on my knees in my bedroom one night, begging God to take this from me. I told Him, ‘You’ve picked the wrong person. I’m not created for this. I don’t know what I’m doing.’ But after some twenty minutes of trying to get rid of what I felt was a burden at that time, He stood me up in my bedroom – and I’ve been on a direct path ever since. That’s the way God works in my life.”
In 2005, the Nampa Family Justice Center officially opened its doors, after being selected as one of fifteen pilot programs across the nation funded with $20 million set aside through The President’s Family Justice Center Initiative.
Today, Angela says, the Nampa Family Justice Center is one of the oldest such facilities in the country. “In fact, [law enforcement] people often come here to look at our model and see how they can set up a family justice center in their own community.”
The Nampa Center provides critical all-under-one-roof help for victims of stalking, domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse, and human trafficking, giving them whatever medical exams, counseling, legal aid, child care, and law enforcement and advocacy assistance they may need. Plus, to remember and honor the two cases which prompted Angela’s efforts, the Center’s pediatrics unit has been named in honor of Ellen Sinclair, and its children’s center is known as “Natasha’s Place,” in honor of Natasha Duarté.
“I’ve seen more crazy, horrible crimes than most detectives. I’ve probably worked more child homicides than the average law enforcement officer. But the more faith I had in God, the more He was involved; the more He would bring amazing people or much-needed resources into the victims’ lives when they needed it the most. To me, He was constantly showing me His hand, revealing Himself through all the darkness,” she states.
The next decade was a good time for Angela. Her law enforcement career was in full swing … the Justice Center was successfully helping abuse victims throughout southwest Idaho … and she received a slew of honors including the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence’s Law Enforcement Silver Star Award, the Idaho Victim Witness Association 2012 Victims Services Award, and the God and Country Rally’s Outstanding Public Service Award, among others.
But then, tragedy struck. Again.
In 2015, Angela was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
“I was scared. Really scared. I didn’t know what to expect,” she admits. “So I completely surrendered everything to God. I gave it all to Him. I told Him, ‘I can’t do this without you.’ And from that point on, my life completely changed.” Despite undergoing nine surgeries, two infections, and countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation over a two-year period, “People kept telling me about the light in my eyes; the hope, the joy, the strength they saw in me. But I explained to them, ‘What you’re seeing is not of me. I’m a worrier. And I like to be in control. What you’re seeing is the fact that God is using me as a vessel. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. But he’s chosen me as His vessel.”
She received support from her family, her church – and the Nampa Police Department, which accommodated her treatment schedule and her compromised immune system. She was assigned light detective duty “which meant I didn’t have to go into dirty drug houses or fight suspects,” she chuckles. In fact, she loved her job so much, “I’d have chemotherapy on a Friday, for example, and I’d be back to work on a Monday. Sometimes, I would have to take a week or so off for surgeries, but I was always able to – and I always wanted to – continue working.”
As her chemo treatments continued, so much of her hair began falling out that she decided to shave her head. Her husband voluntarily did the same.
A few months later, Angela and several others attended what she thought was a “good-bye” luncheon for Nampa Police Chief Craig Kingsbury, who had accepted an identical position with the Twin Falls Police Department. The luncheon was held at the Brick 29 restaurant in downtown Nampa. But as they left the restaurant, Angela was stopped in her tracks when she saw a large group of fellow emergency service workers who had gathered on the sidewalk. “There must have been 30 or 40 people there from the Nampa Fire Department, the SWAT team, the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, the County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Nampa Police Department – including five female NPD officers – all of whom had shaved their heads!” she recalls, choking back a tear. “I’m a talker. I’m never at a loss for words. But seeing all my co-workers standing there in solidarity, showing their support for me, I was so moved, I couldn’t speak. It was absolutely incredible!”
Although she’s now cancer-free, Angela still visits her oncologist every six months. Just to be safe. “She tells me I’m different from her other patients,” Angela points out. “Her other patients are survivors; she says I’m ‘a thriver.’ And I am. It’s all due to my ‘can-do’ attitude and, more importantly, my faith in God.”
Today, Angela is retired from the Nampa Police Department, works as a law enforcement training consultant, serves as the Nampa Family Justice Center’s Foundation Board President, and volunteers at the Center three days a week.
“God has immensely blessed me with my work, my family, my husband of 26 years, and my two adult children,” she says. Angela currently serves in her church’s children’s ministry, the women’s ministry, and she and her husband lead the young adult’s ministry.
Reflecting on her accomplishments and the dedicated work she tirelessly continues to do to help abuse victims, Angela is quick to point out her favorite Bible verse: Philippians 4:13 which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “I believe God is using me. He’s enabled me to be His hands and feet,” she states. “Because it’s not me doing all these things, helping all these people; it’s the strength of the Lord working through me.”
And by protecting, serving, thriving, and surviving, she continues to work in their lives.
And continues to be His vessel.