In his two decades leading the sex and kidnapping unit of the Seattle Police Department, Det. Bob Shilling alerted people to hundreds of sex offenders moving into their neighborhoods.
One of them was a 13-year-old Seattle boy who molested a 4-year-old.
“You wonder what happened. What went wrong and what could be done?” said Shilling.
Another was Mary K LeTourneau, the teacher convicted of raping her 6th grade student.
Shilling wrote the Community Notification Bulletin when LeTourneau was released from jail on a suspended sentence in 1998. Shilling classified her as a level two sex offender, even though she was a first-time offender.
“There was a position of trust that was violated, the same as when a police officer or doctor or anyone else in a position like that one commits a crime,” he said.
Shilling predicted that LeTourneau might re-offend, and within a month of her release she did.
At SPD, Shilling didn’t just issue bulletins; he walked door to door, asking residents to watch sex offenders he suspected were trolling for new victims.
"Appreciate you keeping an eye, especially teenage boys, you see any hauling wood, working for him, give us a call," said Shilling to one West Seattle resident.
Police from all over the country sought his expertise.
Then in 2000 the most famous crime fighting agency in the world--Interpol--asked Shilling to give at lecture at the agency's headquarters in Lyon, France.
"That was like wow, you got to be kidding me,” said Shilling.
Shilling was such a hit, Interpol made him a member--an honor no other local police officer has been given. (Interpol mostly works with federal law enforcement representatives). The distinction meant annual trips to France at his own expense.
Then, a few months ago, Shilling got a got an offer that would rock his world -- to head Interpol's Crimes Against Children Group, coordinating efforts for the agency's 190 member countries.
“Sometime after Thanksgiving, I’m going to have to end up moving to France because I'll have an office in Interpol Headquarters," said Shilling.
"I will be the first American to ever hold this position, as well as the first municipal police officer to hold this position or any position in Interpol,” he said.
It was his wife who convinced him to take the job, which means moving to France for three years.
"She says your whole life pointed you in this direction. This is the moment, this is the time," said Shilling.
If it was his destiny, it was one he tried hard to avoid.
In fact, when Shilling became a detective in 1989, he asked the police chief to put him anywhere EXCEPT sex crimes.
"He had no way of knowing, because I didn't tell him, that I had been horribly sexually abused as a child from the age of 12 to 16 years,” said Shilling.
He said the abuser was his grandfather. And that wasn't the only betrayal.
"At one time, my mother walked in when it was going on and she turned around, shut the door and left. I have never felt so lonely in all my life," said Shilling.
There seemed to be no escape: The family lived with the grandfather.
"I actually thought about ending my life,” said Shilling. “Fortunately, I didn't. And somehow I reached down and pulled up the strength to keep going. And I told my grandfather that the next time he touched me, I would kill him. And I moved out into my sister's doll house in the back yard and lived there for a couple of years until I graduated from high school."
Shilling said it wasn't until he got the assignment to the SPD sex crimes unit that he decided to forgive his grandfather and his mother -- and dedicate himself to helping other victims
"I tell them that they were a child. This was an adult. This was somebody who knew better. They abused their power and authority. You did nothing wrong,” he said.
The job Bob Shilling didn't want not only became his life's work, it healed him.
Now, he's listening to language tapes and preparing for what he calls “Bob’s French Adventure”; the kind of honor the abused little boy never believed possible.
"You never get over being sexually abused. You remember it every single day.” He said being offered the job at Interpol “was one of those things that said, you know, you're doing just fine, keep on going.”
In order to be part of Interpol, Shilling is required to be an active police officer, which means staying on the SPD. payroll.
He said that he has the full backing of the police chief and mayor, who consider his appointment a huge honor for the entire department. Shilling is working with the U.S. State Department to cover his living expenses.
He said his work at Interpol will not only help stop sex crimes against children all over the world, it will give him new skills to share with police departments here at home.