ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – The Illinois State Bar Association presented its 2014 Law Enforcement Award to Dan Hoffman, Campton Hills police chief, for his work to end mental health stigma in the police force.
After Judith Brawka, chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit, nominated Hoffman for the award, he was selected by Vincent Cornelius, third president of the Illinois State Bar Association. Approximately 26 people attended the award presentation luncheon, held Thursday in the Kane County Judicial Center.
"If it wasn't for law enforcement involvement and understanding as first responders with the mentally ill, tragedies would abound everywhere," Brawka said.
Hoffman helped develop his department's Crisis Intervention Team protocols and training for first-responding police in situations of mental illness or emotional conflict, which includes a 40-hour class and redeploying exercises. Participants learn how to recognize mental health symptoms and deal with them effectively by working with mental health or outpatient facilities if needed. This is done instead of putting the mentally ill into the criminal justice system right away.
"The criminal justice system will just put [the mentally ill] into a circle of despair," Hoffman said. "Law enforcement, myself included, was not trained [on] how to specifically deal with people with mental health issues. But when you fully train officers, they'll be able to deal with [the mentally ill] while still doing it in an expeditious fashion."
The program still is new, and Hoffman said he's working toward it becoming established throughout all of Kane County.
According to the ISBA, the Law Enforcement Award recognizes law enforcement officers who "facilitate a better understanding of the criminal justice system, encourage respect for the law or promote justice."
"This is not an award that we give every year. It's not an award we take lightly," Cornelius said. "It's one that we give much consideration, and it's one that we give to people ... who have a special concern for community, beyond the title of the job."
Cornelius described Hoffman's work as transformational.
"[Choosing Hoffman] was a no-brainer," Cornelius said. "It was not a difficult decision at all."
Hoffman also is a member of the Kane County Mental Health Task Force and Kane County DUI Task Force. He has been a police chief for five years. He started his career in 1979 as a commander in the Aurora Police Department.