Maggie McDowell has two small Maltese dogs, Sassy and Sophie. McDowell loves to take them on walks and runs. Sassy is four and has had about enough. “I say, ‘walk,’ and Sassy will go run and hide in her crate,” explains McDowell. On the other hand, she says, “Sophie will twirl around with excitement.” It’s hard to blame Sassy though. McDowell takes the little dogs on runs for as long as seven miles. “That dog [Sophie] will go forever and still terrorize the birds in the yard when we get home,” says McDowell.
The same could be said of McDowell herself. She may not twirl with excitement, but she does have unending passion and energy for what she does. McDowell is Corporal McDowell of the Springfield Police Department. She has been a sexual crimes investigator with the Criminal Investigations Division for the last eight years. In that time, she’s worked on 950 cases and is currently working on 30.
McDowell does not come across as hardened or worn by the realities of her job. In fact, her personality is in stark contrast to the world she works in. Perhaps it has to be that way. She speaks in a lively and matter-of-fact manner. “She’s energetic, and really focused,” explains McDowell’s husband, Randy, who is also with the Springfield Police Department as the academy coordinator. “She’s a people person.”
McDowell’s career path has defied the typical. In 1990, she started volunteering at The Victim Center as an advocate. After some ride-alongs with the police officers with whom she worked closely at the center, she decided to become at cop herself at the age of 34. “If you told me 20 years ago that I would be a cop, I would have laughed in your face,” says McDowell. “I never even dreamed of doing it.” Now, after 15 years in the police force, she can’t imagine doing anything else. “The more I work these cases, the more I love it,” says McDowell. “I mean seriously love it.”
From the outside, it looks like an odd job to love. There are the interviews with victims who have been through an unimaginably traumatic experience. There are the tense interviews with the suspects. Then she has to transcribe those interviews (“the worst part of my job,” says McDowell). Then she has to get enough evidence to make a solid case, and finally, she spends hours sitting and waiting in the courtroom. It takes a deep well of motivation to deal with all of those details ranging from the emotionally wrenching to the mundane. “To me, it’s kind of a calling,” says McDowell. “I really just love dealing with my victims. I like to be able to come in here and see how incredibly frightened they are and to put them at ease and to see that transformation when they sit here with you for an hour. It’s important to be able to get them to trust you.” McDowell sums it up. “It’s just me letting them know that they’re believed, and it’s not their fault, and there’s help for them.”