Static crackles over the radio, followed by a string of code numbers and a Crawford County Deputy Sheriff is headed out to his next call.
Officers in the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department are often the first responders to situations, and there is no telling what that situation may be. It could be responding to a group of lost dogs, a domestic dispute, a simple traffic stop or even something as severe as a murder.
The lives of many first responders changed on September 11, 2001. Crawford County Sheriff Dan Peak still remembers exactly where he was when he heard about the attack on the World Trade Center.
“I had just walked through the doors at Haderlein Elementary to teach a D.A.R.E class,” Peak said. “I noticed a different feeling in the building, and then I saw a television with the towers in flames.”
Peak said no one was really sure what had happened at that time. It wasn’t until later that morning that it was declared an act of terrorism.
Peak has served in law enforcement for 30 years and was an undersheriff at the time of the September 11 attacks. He said the news about the fate of many first responders and public safety workers in New York had an impact.
“I think what really hit home was the fact that so many made the ultimate sacrifice for the people they serve,” he said. “I think many people felt a real sense of pride after it, because we were part of a community that displayed that kind of selflessness and heroism.”
The events of 9/11 had more than an emotional impact in the lives of public safety workers. The Department of Homeland Security provided new funding to agencies like the county sheriff’s office after 9/11.
“National security became a priority,” Peak said. “We received funding for things we weren’t used to having as a small sheriff’s department.”
Funding from Homeland Security was used to purchase many things including the sheriff’s department’s Winnebago command post. The command post has been used during power outages, and has traveled to Joplin and Greensburg when those communities were struck by tornadoes.
“The attacks changed how we react to catastrophic events and how we train,” Peak said.
But here in Crawford County, the day-to-day doesn’t often involve dealing with major tragedies. Officers with the sheriff’s department have to be more than police, it’s about diffusing minor, everyday tragedies for the citizens. It may be making someone laugh, playing with lost dogs to keep them out of the street or calming a distraught family member.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.