The YWCA’s 22nd Annual Milestones: A Tribute to Women, honored two local women — Oregon Police Detective Janet Zale and Black Swamp Bird Observatory Executive Director Kimberly Kaufman.
The Milestones event was held March 30 at the SeaGate Convention Centre in downtown Toledo.
Detective Zale is the Milestones award recipient for her contributions in government. Zale has been a police officer for over 25 years with the Oregon Police Division.
Throughout her career in law enforcement, Zale has served as a patrol officer, investigations officer, and a member of the Toledo Metro Task Force. Currently, Detective Zale serves as a task force agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation Northwest Ohio Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Detective Zale was honored by the YWCA for her leadership in the investigation of cybercrimes. This includes the sale, collection and possession of child pornography using computers and the internet.
In 2014, Zale received an international award for social media investigations by Connected COPS. She has made presentations at Northwest Ohio area school systems as well as University of Toledo regarding internet safety, cyber bullying, and “sexting.”
According to Milestones presenters, much of Zale’s work includes advocating for and empowering women. Part of her assignments in cybercrimes has overlapped into human trafficking. According to the presenters, “Detective Zale works diligently to promote peace, justice, and freedom for those that she assists.”
One colleague of Detective Zale shares, “You can tell that she is very passionate about her work and getting the message to children and young adults in hopes that her message will prevent them from being victimized.”
Zale says she was nominated for the Milestones award by Oregon Assistant Police Chief Paul Magdich, whom she thanked.
“It was a huge surprise. I knew nothing about being nominated,” Zale said. “That was something I said in my ‘thank you.’ I said, ‘Thanks for listening to me,’ because I’d go into his office and rant about what I think — that the courts aren’t doing enough, or why are these kids still doing this? I’ve talked to them a hundred times over.”
In 2010, Zale was present when speakers from Oregon City Schools, the Oregon police department, and the Lucas County prosecutor’s office gave a presentation to Clay High School in which students were broken up into groups to discuss sexting, social networking, and the threat of sexual predators on the internet. Two other presentations that spring and fall were to students at Eisenhower Middle School.
Robert Miller, Lucas County assistant prosecuting attorney, said Zale has played a role in numerous Lucas County investigations.
“She calls herself the geek and she is, but she is the good geek,” Miller said, “Anytime we have a case that involves child pornography, she can help us and she can access computers and cell phones and things like that which contain data. She’s a wonderful expert that we have here in our office in Oregon.”
During that Clay forum, Zale said a survey found that 56 percent of children on the internet post personal information, and 43 percent are willing to communicate with unknown people.
She has kept records of where she has given school presentations dating back to 2009. She remembers what got her talking to students about internet safety, and it started with her work with the FBI on human trafficking issues.
“The reason I started talking to these kids about this is that when I first started doing the work with the FBI for digital forensics and how it was related to child pornography, besides all these pictures of these little kids — these little prepubescent children — there were always pictures of teenagers, or pre-teens that were scantily clad, or trying to post suggestive or provocative or nude pictures themselves,” Zale said.
“I wondered, ‘Gosh, where are these people getting these pictures of these kids from? Are they getting it from their social media pages that is open for anybody to see, or as far as the nudes go, is it something was shared over and over again, and how many times is it shared before it gets out there for everybody to see? I just wanted to warn them that it’s not only illegal, but this is where you’re pictures are going to end up.
“I know parents are so busy with their own things that they just don’t have time sometimes to really follow through with what their kids are doing on their phones, or on their computer or whatever. It’s just so important for everybody to monitor what their child is doing. So, I just feel like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’ve got to go out there and let everybody know. I’ve got spread the word.’”
Each year, the FBI requires Zale to supply them with the total number to students she talks to because they keep statistics on community outreach. In 2016, she talked to roughly 3,700 students in Northwest Ohio.
She gave two presentations at Oak Harbor High School on sexting and sexploitation on January 8, and 316 students attended. Last August 19, she gave a presentation to the freshman student body at Clay High School, and 340 attended.
“I know Clay High School every year, has me come in, during one of the earliest days of school, like freshmen orientation, and speak to the incoming freshmen about what you may have been doing in the past, this is not what’s going to continue now, and this is what we’re going to do if you’re caught doing it. They are so proactive with that,” Zale said.
In 2016, Zale gave a total of 13 presentations at area universities and other Northwest Ohio high schools talking about sexploitation issues, and she also speaks about issues like bullying, social media, leaving a digital footprint, policing, laws and law enforcement in today’s environment. She was at Tiffin University on Tuesday of last week speaking about human trafficking.
She believes the older students are finally starting to get it, especially as they mature, but each year a young crop of young teens enter high school unknowing of the dangers on the internet.
“I think the older kids are telling more. When they see something, they say, ‘That’s not right. You shouldn’t do that.’” Zale said. “I think the younger kids just still haven’t grasped the concept of what you are doing is wrong.”