County Issues

Peoria County Cares
William Prather, Peoria County Board
The National Association of Counties (NACo) recently presented its esteemed Acts of Caring Award for Criminal Justice to the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. NACo’s Acts of Caring Awards recognize the top county volunteer programs in the country. For the purposes of this award, an act of caring is a community service provided by a county-sponsored volunteer program that enhances or preserves the quality of life.

The Peoria County Sheriff’s Office won the Acts of Caring Award for its Special Tactical Assistance Trauma Team (STATT), a team of volunteer medical professionals trained to respond alongside law enforcement officers to scenes of dangerous callouts, including hostage situations, barricaded suspects and high-risk arrests. The team’s response with law enforcement ensures that medical attention is now available to injured parties within 30 seconds rather than the typical 10-15 minute delay previously experienced by medical technicians waiting for a scene to be pronounced clear before entering.

Team co-founders John Wipfler III, MD, and then life-flight pilot Terry Kaufman orchestrated the program’s creation when they approached the Sheriff’s Office in 1997 with a unique, costeffective proposal to save lives in the field. Shortly thereafter a memorandum of understanding between the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office and OSF St. Francis Medical Center established STATT as the first tactical emergency medical support (TEMS) team in Illinois and the first of its kind with volunteer medical professionals in the Midwest.

The Team’s presence at dangerous call-outs not only addresses the issue of immediate medical attention by reducing response time, it also increases the quality of care. STATT officers are emergency room physicians, paramedics and life flight nurses. These men and women are appointed auxiliary deputies by the Sheriff’s Office and are trained, at their own expense, to carry firearms when responding to call-outs with the region’s SWAT unit. STATT officers respond in pairs to allow one medical professional to tend to an injured party while the other provides armed protection.

Since STATT’s first call-out in 1998, the team has responded alongside local and regional law enforcement agencies over 70 times. In addition to these dangerous call-outs, STATT officers also attend potentially hazardous training exercises. In both real and simulated situations, their services are available should someone be in need. And in both real and simulated situations, their time is volunteered, setting STATT and Peoria County apart from other jurisdictions with paid TEMS units.

The STATT program was recognized as an Act of Caring for its ability to enhance and preserve lives. The Team’s presence during dangerous call-outs guarantees injured parties a much better chance of survival. When the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office and OSF St. Francis Medical Center came together to create a volunteer program that provides the best possible medical care within 30 seconds to law enforcement officers, innocent bystanders and criminal suspects, they showed you, our citizens, how much they truly care. IBI