Janesville73°

Session allows officers' families to better understand police work

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ANN MARIE AMES
February 28, 2011
— You know those trust-building exercises in which you close your eyes and fall backwards into the waiting arms of a co-worker?

Jennifer Schumann has that beat, hands down.


Schumann on Sunday evening stood bravely between two of her husbands colleagues. The Janesville Police Department officers held Schumann's arms tightly.


Standing behind her were 15 family members of department officers. They cringed and collectively held their breath while they waited for officer Tim O'Leary to flip the switch on the yellow electric stun gun.


A Gazette reporter covered her eyes in anticipation, and aimed a video camera at Schumann.


O'Leary called out, "Taser. Taser," and … crack! Two darts shot from the gun and struck Schumann in the center of her back.


She cried out just a little, went rigid and fell forward.


O'Leary cut the current after two seconds, but Schumann didn't move from her spot on the floor of the department's training facility on Reed Road south of Janesville.


"Holy hell that hurt," said Schumann, who lifted her head, grinning.


A few minutes later Schumann was up and watching the video of the event. She had volunteered—insisted actually—to be on the receiving end of O'Leary's demonstration.


Schumann and others are participants in a six-week family academy hosted by the Janesville Police Department. Officers planned the lessons and are teaching the sessions.


Other than giving her the opportunity for "bragging rights"—her words—the academy has been a good way for family members to learn about their loved ones' jobs, said Schumann, the wife of officer Todd Schumann.


"It lets you into their world," she said. "They don't talk about it a lot after work."


Sunday's session included practice with stun guns, pepper spray and handguns. Other sessions are planned to teach officers' family members about domestic violence, what happens when an officer is injured on the job and what it looks like when an officer is struggling after a traumatic event, Chief Dave Moore said.


Engaging families in the department makes for a healthy work environment, Moore said.


"As we move towards supporting healthy, hardworking employees, this kind of activity is good for employees, good for their families and good for the community, too," Moore said.


Bobbi O'Leary, wife of officer Tim O'Leary, couldn't agree more. Learning about her husband's job eases a lot of stress, she said. It's a stress load that comes and goes, she said. When you're first married and new to the business of being an officer's wife, it's pretty tense.


"But you can't be a basket case forever," O'Leary said.


Karri Ratzlaff, wife of Sgt. Mark Ratzlaff, said the sessions have been "a great educational experience." She thinks the department should hold such sessions on a regular basis to welcome new officers and their families into what is a very tight knit group—on the job and off, Ratzlaff said.


Schumann said the training so far has met the goal of keeping "us as a family unit."



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