Summerville Citizens Police Academy

  • Friday, November 22, 2013

A.M. Sheehan/Journal Scene Rosemary Jackson follows Sgt. Steve Allison’s instructions during a field sobriety test demonstration.


Class 9

Bright, cheerful and funny, Victims Advocate Toni Hood opens the class by passing around a pumpkin full of treats. Having worked with law enforcement since 1989, Hood has been a victim’s advocate for 15.

“It is,” she says, “a fulfilling but often thankless job.” She can’t imagine doing anything else.

She deals with domestic violence victims, family court, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse, incorrigible children and juvenile crime.

Law enforcement-based advocates provide immediate crisis intervention to victims of violent crimes as well as others who are going through traumatic situations. Having advocates on duty and on call around the clock to respond to crime scenes has proven to be one of the most valuable resources to victims.

Hood responds immediately to assist victims/survivors of crime with crisis services, which often make the difference between their emotional wellbeing in the aftermath of tragedy.

She deals with all types of traumatic situations, which are not criminal such as suicides, accidental deaths and missing persons. These families receive no services from other advocates since no crime is actually involved. However, they are still traumatized and need assistance.

Hood explains a victim’s rights, how they can get protection, explains police procedure and the judicial system both of which are governed by law which does not necessarily fit into a victim’s idea of justice.

She helps victims with compensation, gives moral support and court advocacy, helps victims find resources for shelter and basic needs.

Every morning, she looks through the incident reports at Summerville Police Department and begins to make phone calls, contacting victims and offering assistance.

Often she will have to gently but firmly separate the victim from other influences in order for the victim to feel safe enough to be honest.

She makes house calls, accompanied by law enforcement for her own safety.

Often, she says, she will be aware of the state of children or elderly occupants and too often this awareness will uncover elder or child neglect. By seeing how household pets are cared for, Hood can get a “red flag” to look into how children are being cared for.

A graduate of the National Victim Assistance Academy and certified through the South Carolina Victim Assistance Standards and Certification Board, Hood has been with SPD for a year. Prior to coming to Summerville she has worked with Berkeley County, Charleston County, Goose Creek law enforcement as well as with the military, as a victims advocate.

After our break, we are greeted by Sgt. Steve Allison of the traffic unit. Retired from the Air Force, Allison came to SPD as a reserve officer in 1987, was hired full time in ‘99 and has been with traffic for three years.

The SPD traffic unit has nine officers who work eight-hour shifts. The unit’s mission is the enforcement of traffic laws and regulations, traffic safety education and public information, identifying and removing from the streets dangers to the public and collision investigation.

Under this mission fall speeding, reckless driving, safety of emergency personnel, child restraint safety, dui, etc.

One of Allison’s pet peeves is the state mandatory move-over law. When emergency personnel such as fire, rescue or law enforcement are in or alongside the roadway, it is mandatory to pull over giving them a wide birth.

SPD’s only in-the-line-of-duty fatality, he says, was a roadside motorist assistance incident, where two officers (one a deputy) were killed by another motorist.

Allison gives us stats for collisions. From January to September 2013, SPD has conducted 1,511 collision investigations that involved 4,118 occupants and $4,431,181 in damages.

“Mondays and Fridays are our busiest days,” he says.

Of those 1,511 crashes, 322 were because of following too closely, 295 - failure to yield (ae: lane changes), 339 - driver inattention and 104 - too fast for road conditions.

He then gives us an attention-grabbing fact: Between Fridays at 8 p.m. and Sundays 4 a.m. eight out of every 10 drivers are impaired.

In 2011, in the nation, 9,878 were killed in alcohol-related crashes. In South Carolina, total fatalities were 810 of which 51 percent (410) were alcohol-related making South Carolina 14th in the nation for alcohol-related fatalities.

The highest percentage rate is 21- to 24-year olds.

He told us how all collision reports are now done electronically, automatically getting submitted to the state.

In Summerville Police Department’s jurisdiction, he says, there has not been a fatality in a year and a half.

SPD’s traffic unit has accident reconstruction training which includes marking, mapping, noting impact damage, angles, distances and using formulas determining speed.

And then there is that pesky omniscient radar. We learned that officers not only have to be trained to use radar and Lidar (laser) equipment, they must also qualify using only their senses with their estimates being compared to the radar or Lidar results. They are allowed only a 3 mph difference.

Lastly, Allison discussed field sobriety testing and DREs.

Drug Recognition Experts go through rigorous training to be able to identify the type of drug a person may be on. In order to qualify, the ID that a DRE comes up with, must match the results of a urine test.

Field sobriety testing is multifaceted and encompasses not just balance but a number of other things the subject must do at the same time.

Traffic enforcement, we learn, is as complicated and highly trained as every other department.

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