When you ask Steve Searcy to mirror on his profession of public service, he talks in regards to the individuals who could not be saved.
There was Linda at 515 Might St.
She ceaselessly wore the marks of abuse on her face, and as her husband sat on the entrance porch clothed in a blood-stained T-shirt, she’d all the time decline to file a warrant towards him, Searcy mentioned.
It wasn’t lengthy after Searcy, a rookie police officer within the mid-Nineteen Seventies, first met Linda, earlier than her husband did deadly injury.
“On many a day I would journey by 515 Might St. on my lunch break. The home was boarded up and the barking canine was gone,” Searcy mentioned. “The three kids have been gone. They’d been taken by the state. Linda was within the graveyard and her husband was in jail, and I all the time questioned may we have now accomplished one thing completely different?”
After which there have been the Robinson kids – 11-year-old Evin, six-year-old Ehren and four-year-old Ereal. Every have been gunned down by their father, Eric Robinson, earlier than he turned the gun on himself in 2007.
Days earlier than, the three kids have been in Searcy’s workplace. One of many boys, stuffed with vitality, couldn’t sit nonetheless so Searcy made a take care of him, an opportunity to journey in a patrol automotive.
“‘You possibly can activate the sirens, you may activate the blue lights, simply please let me get this paperwork accomplished,” Searcy recalled. “He gave me an enormous high-five, smiled ear-to-ear, and went and sat down. That is the final time I noticed him alive.”
The pivotal moments in Searcy’s profession gave the impression to be marked by tragedy, however for each a type of, there are 10 tales of survival and energy.
Searcy devoted 35 years as a police officer, 5 years as director of One Place Household Justice Middle and continues to use himself to the coaching of regulation enforcement in service of every sufferer of home violence and sexual assault. For these causes, Searcy is the Montgomery Advertiser’s October Group Hero, sponsored by the Beasley Allen Regulation Agency.
‘We have been all taking part’
October is devoted to victims of home violence.
However on any given day, home violence hotlines throughout the nation obtain over 19,000 calls, in keeping with a 2020 report by the Nationwide Community to Finish Home Violence. On sooner or later in September 2020, hotline workers in Alabama acquired contact from 105 folks — a median of 4 per hour. Although the variety of victims needing assist was nearly definitely larger.
Home violence and sexual assaults are critically underreported. For quite a lot of causes, a sufferer could not really feel protected to take action. Because the COVID-19 pandemic shut down places of work and compelled folks to stay house, generally below the identical roof with an abuser, the variety of stories dropped alarmingly, Marjorie Baker, govt director of One Place Household Justice Middle mentioned in 2020.
The attention of home violence and advocacy of victims has gone by a radical shift within the final 40 years. When Searcy started his profession, the phrase home violence didn’t exist.
“They have been known as household disturbances,” he mentioned. “A pleasant, neat, sanitized manner of addressing the problem.”
And when victims, like Linda, misplaced their lives to home violence, officers downplayed it.
“They’d say issues like ‘nicely she will need to have appreciated it,’ ” Searcy mentioned of the violence. “I assume it was believable deniability. I assume that is the way in which that we do not have to simply accept accountability. However considering again — to again then — we have been all taking part in that course of by not helping, not serving to, as a result of we weren’t educated correctly.”
So Searcy received educated. Then he shared that experience with others.
In 1995, Searcy started coaching new recruits on the police academy on the right way to deal with home violence instances. Then within the early 2000s, he supported the formation of a devoted unit.
“We known as it the murder prevention unit,” he mentioned.
On the time, about 10 to fifteen of the town’s 30 to 35 murder instances a 12 months have been associated to home violence, Searcy mentioned.
The unit arrange a system of checks and prevention, figuring out the repeat offenders, the crimes with weapons and different variables as a way of triaging the almost 12,000 calls of home violence a 12 months.
The variety of homicides associated to home violence dropped — not often to zero — however the unit stemmed the case depend.
It was in these early days that Susan Godwin met Searcy.
‘A protected haven’
“I am not pleased with how I met Steve Searcy, however I am proud to know him,” Godwin mentioned of the person she considers an enormous brother, regardless of being older than him.
Godwin had been going by a heated divorce in 2002. When she lastly received the signed paperwork, declaring her a single lady, she thought there can be some closure in what have been a tumultuous couple of years.
As quickly as she stepped into her house, dropped her purse and keys close to the entrance door and walked into her bed room she was attacked from behind by her ex-husband.
What adopted have been seven hours of bodily and emotional abuse. She escaped the house, and hurled herself over the fence to her neighbor’s house.
She nonetheless wears the scars of that evening to this present day.
Her first few encounters with regulation enforcement have been lower than splendid, however Searcy listened to her.
“And each time we talked, it was as if no matter I needed to say was a very powerful factor on this planet,” she mentioned. “It is all the time like that speaking to Steve. He takes care of you.”
Instantly following the assault on Godwin, she was escorted by officers to appointment after appointment to fulfill with regulation enforcement and medical professionals. It was a jarring expertise to place her belief in a wierd man, regardless of him being a police officer, after such a brutal assault.
The revolving door of conferences she had following the harrowing incident was exhausting. Whereas Godwin navigated her manner by them, many victims do not.
It is with the One Place Household Justice Middle that Searcy aimed to place a cease to that. Then-Montgomery County District Lawyer Ellen Brooks, Household Sunshine Middle Director Karen Sellers, Searcy and a number of different folks, turned their consideration to this dream – a one cease store the place victims may signal a warrant, obtain counseling, search authorized recommendation and have a sexual assault examination.
“Earlier than, a sufferer may need wanted these items, however once they left our workplace we did not know if a sufferer accomplished the mission,” Searcy mentioned. “And numerous instances, there have been too many obstacles. You’ve got received two kids hanging from both arm, and the journey is simply too far for them. So once I may merely stroll a sufferer down a corridor to the subsequent supplier, it is a protected haven for them.”
The Middle opened after a lot grit and determinations by all events concerned in 2010. Inside the first 12 months, they’d helped over 800 victims of home violence.
Searcy stayed on as govt director of the middle for five years, securing extra funding for the middle, and serving to them broaden their companies.
In 2015, he retired a second time, solely to associate with the Alabama Coalition Towards Home Violence persevering with his ardour for serving to home violence victims. He holds coaching seminars for regulation enforcement, hoping to depart the occupation higher than it was when he began.
Searcy travels the state, helping different cities set up their very own One Place facilities. There’s now one in Birmingham and the Shoals. He delights in sharing the blueprint of One Place’s successes to events.
Steve Searcy folds into himself when he’s known as a hero. He shrugs off the popularity.
For him, dedicating his life to victims of home violence and sexual assault is a calling. One thing to be accomplished with little pomp and circumstance.
His life’s work shouldn’t be about him, however quite the households he’s suggested, the youngsters he’s comforted and the numerous victims who he’s but to fulfill. However for the folks he’s saved, he’s a robust, optimistic power of their lives.
Godwin made the error of calling him a hero as soon as in 2010 on the opening of the One Place Household Justice Middle.
“I did not understand how I used to be going to get by the speech and I zeroed in on Steve within the crowd and that is once I mentioned it,” Godwin recalled. “That is when he tried to make himself the smallest he probably may. He was telling me together with his physique language ‘do not make it about me.’ That is what the Lord calls you to do is transfer your self out of the way in which in service of others. And that is what makes him the world’s hero.”
Group Heroes Montgomery
The 12-month Group Heroes Montgomery, sponsored by Beasley Allen Regulation Agency, will profile one particular person each month this 12 months.
Each month-to-month winner will obtain a journey voucher from the Montgomery Regional Airport and American Airways, a staycation from Wind Creek, dinner at Itta Bena restaurant and a certificates of appreciation from Montgomery’s mayor.
On the finish of the 12 months, the Heroes will probably be acknowledged at a banquet, and a “Hero of 2021” will probably be honored.
The 12 classes the Montgomery Advertiser will deal with: educator, well being, enterprise chief, army, youth, regulation enforcement, fireplace/EMT, nonprofit/group service, spiritual chief, senior volunteer, leisure (arts/music) and athletics (resembling a coach).
January Group Hero: Dr. Richard Cyrus helps thousands of uninsured people get free medical care
February Group Hero: Historian Richard Bailey is committed to sharing Montgomery’s history
March Group Hero: Rebecca L. Martin dedicates decades to Chisholm
Might Group Hero: Montgomery’s Brock brothers inspire young minds, souls at Valiant Cross
August Group Hero: ‘Like a good neighbor’: Willie Durham gives voice to small business
September Group Hero: At 91, Daisy Fann is still fighting for her north Montgomery neighborhood
Are you aware a Group Hero?
To appoint somebody for Group Heroes Montgomery, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Please specify which class you are nominating for and your contact data.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Kirsten Fiscus at 334-318-1798 or KFiscus@gannett.com. Observe her on Twitter @KDFiscus