York County Sheriff’s deputies participate in MADD training; director explains entity’s role in victim advocacy and support for law enforcement

YORK COUNTY – The York County Sheriff’s Department held a training session this past week, with deputies hearing from the executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) regarding the entity’s support for law enforcement and their work in advocating for victims.

Sara Draper met with deputies at the training center in the York County Courthouse.

Her role as director is to make sure the public – and law enforcement – are aware “of what we do. We support law enforcement and provide victim services. Our mission is to have no more victims due to impaired driving. We want to eliminate drunk driving. We need to have better solutions. We also fight against underage drinking as we know if we can protect them longer we can help keep them safer behind the wheel later in life. And we support the victims of all types of accidents as a result of intoxication.”

She provided statistics regarding impaired driving. Sixty-five people were killed on Nebraska roadways in 2021. In 2020, in Nebraska, there were 5,425 DUI arrests and 5,314 DUI convictions. In the United States, one person dies every 39 minutes due to drunk driving crashes.

“You are out there doing the work,” Draper said to the deputies. “You see this every single day. We support high visibility law enforcement. And we support requirements for ignition interlock devices for all drunk drivers. MADD supports advanced in-vehicle technology to determine whether a driver is impaired.”

Draper said the agency provides many forms of training and engagement opportunities with law enforcement.

“You are the people who take them off the road and every arrest you make has the potential of saving a life,” Draper said. “We also do court monitoring in situations where law enforcement is making arrests but when the cases get to court, nothing happens. We will look into those situations to see what might be the issue. When defendants have no consequences, they don’t learn and law enforcement becomes disheartened.

“We also do death notification training for law enforcement,” Draper said, “which I would imagine is one of the hardest things about your job,” referring to the moments law enforcement officers have to contact families after a loved one is killed.

Draper stressed that victim services are a very important – maybe the most important – role played by MADD. She asks that law enforcement put victims in touch with their organization early on. “The sooner you connect victims with MADD, the sooner we can help them. The victimization process is hard. They have traumatic grief which is difficult, to say the least, and the court system, the court process, isn’t always friendly for victims as they deal with that grief. Sometimes victims feel like nothing is happening on the legal side. But our advocates can tell them yes, things are happening, and we can be a liaison between them and the courts and law enforcement.

“And MADD also becomes a family of support for victims,” she continued. “Most victims’ loved ones who we have worked with say this is a family they never wanted but they are glad MADD was there for them.”

Draper played two videos for the deputies – videos of victims’ families who talked about the horrible tragedies when they lost loved ones due to drunk driving and how they found solace in the support provided by MADD advocates.

One couple, from the Wahoo area, talked about the day their daughter, her husband and their dog, were killed in a tragic accident. “But MADD was there to help us through all of it, including the long court process” as the defendant was prosecuted. “MADD was there with us every time we were in court and they provided us so much support.”

Draper said she was actually the couple’s advocate, “and it was so important they were connected to MADD early on. Eventually, they were able to find good and now they are working to help change the world. Their story is one of many reasons we do what we do.”

Another video was of a man in Garden County, who lost his mother after a drunk driver took her life. The court process in that situation lasted three years.

The man said, after talking about what an amazing woman his mother was, “She was killed by an impaired driver who had four other DUIs before that, so this was his fifth. He had just completed rehab. This all could have been avoided. MADD does an amazing job in helping victims’ families.”

“I know that you all understand the importance of fighting impaired driving,” Draper said further. “The work you do is to save lives so it is incredibly important because of these faces, the people left behind. Every DUI stop and arrest – you are preventing this from happening again. We thank you for what you do because you are saving lives.”

Deputy Taylor Samek, who arranged for the training, told deputies the YSO will be holding programs for teenagers and kids in the community, in the near future.

The deputies also received information regarding how to connect victims’ families with MADD, as well as how to utilize training MADD offers.

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