Flash points: traffic stops, domestic situations
BY Julie Gerke
For police, two frequent duties — domestic calls and traffic stops — can prove the most dangerous for the same reason: Officers never know what they will face.
Take, for instance, the content of several police dash-cam videos from across the country:
• A driver stopped for speeding in a school zone starts out with a raised voice and eventually screams for the officer to take her to jail, upsetting a small child in the car; before driving away, she ends the tirade by saying the stop is why people shoot officers.
• An officer is shot in the head by a driver he is trying to pull over. The officer remains conscious and backs his car away while talking to dispatchers.
• An officer is fatally shot by a driver who refused to keep his hands up and stand still. Before returning to his truck to retrieve and load a gun, the driver danced in the road, ignored orders and taunted the officer repeatedly.
These videos provided real-life examples of the “fight, flight or comply” reactions officers can face during a traffic stop.
Jacksonville Police Department Lt. Sean Haefeli also shared his experiences during the third week of the JPD citizens academy.
“Domestic violence and traffic stops are two of the most dangerous things we do,” said JPD Lt. Mark Lonergan. “There’s a lot of potential for things to go south for us.”
Case in point: Haefeli, when working in St. Louis County, once pulled over a motorist who turned out to be a murder suspect armed with several guns. Another time, he was shot while conducting a well-being check.
Ongoing training, constant awareness, maintaining scene control and common sense can help officers stay safe. The officer shot in the head, for instance, had driven down an alley that provided no escape route.
In addition to department training on domestic situations, local police have a working relationship with Jacksonville’s Crisis Center Foundation. The foundation’s executive director, Dona Leanard, said the center helps women, men and children who have been in domestic abuse situations. It also runs a 19-bed shelter and works with local groups to provide victim support and counseling.
In February, the foundation created a response team that makes an on-call advocate available for domestic police calls. The advocate provides immediate emotional support, information and basic help to the victim. Advocates also can share crisis best practices with officers.
Alexis Coil, an academy member who leads the response team, said police department referrals about domestic calls have been “really helpful for our advocates just so they know what’s going on” in the community.
The umbrella of “domestic violence” can include physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse to any person or any age; financial or physical neglect; and intimidation or implied threats.
Leanard gave an example of implied threat: a man upset with his partner would remain soft spoken but have her sit at the kitchen table to talk while he cleaned his handgun.
Other abusers may use children as an emotional weapon, threatening to hurt them or take them away from the other parent.
Custody cases gone awry sometimes result in parental kidnappings or injury or death to a child, all as a way to control a victim.
Community awareness of domestic violence has grown since the foundation began, Leanard said. “In the last 24 years, things have changed a lot but we’re still not there.”
Next week: Juvenile, criminal and traffic laws
By the numbers
In the last five years, the Crisis Center Foundation has:
• Served 1,172 victims – 83% adults,
17% children. Women accounted for 91% of the adults.
• Provided 25,886 total hours of direct service
• Answered 2,494 hotline calls
• Provided 282 people with emergency shelter; average stay was 29 days
Physical abuse was the primary abuse for 50% of those helped, and the majority of abuse occurred at the victim’s home or shared residence. Source: CCF
Crisis Center services
24/7 hotline, legal advocacy, emergency shelter, counseling, resource advocacy, children’s services, community outreach and professional education, domestic violence response team
In an emergency, dial 911.
Crisis Center Foundation hotline: 1-800-599-SAFE (7233) or 217-243-4357; serves Morgan, Scott, Cass, Greene counties and surrounding areas.
Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline:
National Domestic Violence
Hotline (multi-lingual): 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); text SMART to 88788; TTY, 1-800-787-3224
How to help
The Crisis Center Foundation accepts online donations. Visit “Crisis Center Foundation” on Facebook for a link.
Hygiene items (soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste) and home cleaning products (laundry & dish detergent; brooms, vacuums, etc.) are also always needed.
To coordinate a monetary gift or donation of products, call 217-243-4357.