“Working for a small police department is very different from working for a statewide agency,” she added. “One thing is the difference in jurisdiction. With the SBI, I had statewide powers of arrest, etc. So, I went from approximately 56,000 square miles of jurisdiction to 2.5 square miles of jurisdiction. I went from driving 500-1,000 miles per week, depending on where my cases took me, to driving around 100 miles per week. I also had to learn a lot about property crime. As an agent, this was not something I typically worked. Generally, with the SBI, agents investigate major crimes, assisting local agencies or working investigations in which the SBI has original jurisdiction. Within a small department, I am responsible for investigating any and all crimes that need additional work to complete the investigation.”
When the SBI hired Billings in 1989, she was one of 35 female agents in an agency of 250 mostly white males.
“There were not very many minorities working for any law-enforcement agency I encountered on a daily basis,” she said.
And Billings cited the importance of her upbringing in overcoming the barriers she faced as a woman.
“I will say that my parents taught me the value of hard work, perseverance and giving 100 percent to whatever task was at hand,” she said. “I often had to work twice or thrice as hard in my job to prove to local departments and other agents that I was capable of performing my duties rather well. I still encounter this occasionally, usually with officers or agents with whom I have not worked before. In my 31 years in law-enforcement and having worked for a statewide agency, I can say that my reputation as a hardworking, dedicated investigator usually precedes me, and I am generally accepted as one of the team from the get-go. I still have local, state and federal officers, with whom I worked in my past career with the SBI, call me for advice and suggestions on investigations or to obtain a contact with another agency.”
Thinking of a law-enforcement career? Billings has advice for you.
“Understand what your mission is: to serve others,” she said. “Women often find this concept easier to grasp, and it is often engrained in them from childhood. Even today, women need to be prepared to prove themselves in law-enforcement. Be prepared to face prejudice, stereotypes and blatant disrespect from everyone: the community, victims, witnesses, suspects and fellow co-workers. Stand strong and don’t let others’ opinions of you color your attitude. Know what your strengths and limitations are, and use them to your advantage. Jump in with both feet! This is not a profession you can stick your toe in to test the waters. Either you are committed, or you’re not. And if your heart isn’t in it, that will be apparent from the get-go. Learn to compartmentalize what you see and hear on a daily basis. We often deal with people on their worst day. If you can’t develop this ability, your job will destroy you. However, just one day of making a difference in someone’s situation will be one of the best days you’ve ever had and make all the bad days worthwhile.”
More about the Billings family
Billings and husband Robert married in August of 1991. Mr. Billings is a civil engineer for Mecklenburg County.
“His support of my career is a big part of my success,” the detective observed. “Most former Marines would feel inferior to a woman in my line of work. However, he has always encouraged and celebrated my chosen profession. He has always stepped up to fill my shoes at home when I am called out in the middle of the night, or I don’t come home at a decent hour, several days in a row.”
The Billings family moved to Stanley in 1995. They’re members of the First Presbyterian Church of Stanley.
“We have two incredible children,” said Mrs. Billings. “Zane is our oldest, and he is a senior at Western Carolina University. He will graduate in May with double majors in math and biology. He hopes to enter a PhD program for math or statistics this fall.
“Our daughter, Chloe, is a senior at East Gaston High School,” she added. “She is a kind and considerate young lady, with a passion for serving others. She has exceptional tenacity to overcome obstacles and meet challenges. She is quiet but so strong. Her dad has always encouraged her to be independent and able to stand on her own two feet. She plans to attend Gaston College this fall and transfer to a four-year university once she decides what type of career she wishes to pursue. She is a Patriot with American Heritage Girls Troop NC0512, and she will complete that program this May, having accomplished the highest honor the organization can award as the 569th recipient of the Stars and Stripes Award.”
Billings offered further explication about this nationwide Christian alternative to the Girl Scouts.
“American Heritage Girls is a Christ-centered character and leadership development program for girls 5 to 18 years of age,” she said. “AHG is dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country. I serve as a Pioneer and Patriot Unit leader and troop treasurer with Troop NC0512, based out of the First Presbyterian Church Stanley. I believe it is important to show girls of all ages what they can accomplish and that no job or career is beyond their reach. It is important for them to see strong women of faith in non-traditional careers serving others. AHG has played an important role in our family for the past eight years, helping us develop a servant attitude in our entire family, not just in our daughter.”
From working riots in Concord in the 1990’s, investigating major crimes and developing strategic solutions to the opioid crisis to serving breakfast at the EGHS senior breakfast or teaching students about evidence collection during “Students at Work,” Billings has had an amazing career.
It is, she added, “one that I am very thankful for. It has helped mold me into the assured, confident individual I am today. My favorite part of working as a law-enforcement officer is meeting different people every day and helping develop solutions to combat issues in our community, both locally and on a larger scale. My goal every day is to ‘act always in a way to do good.’ I have enjoyed my second career with the Town of Stanley immensely. It has provided me the opportunity to know the people of the town I live in and to serve them with respect and compassion. And not having to drive all over this great state to do that is just an added bonus!”
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