Meet Hatty, Cook County's canine companion for crime victims

Gentle, friendly and cuddly probably aren't the words you'd expect when hearing a description of the latest staffing addition at the office responsible for prosecuting some of the nation's most hardened criminals.

But in the case of Hatty, it fits.

Hatty, a 2-year-old Labrador retriever, recently joined the staff of Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx as the office's first support dog.

Her job is to assist children and mentally disabled victims of sexual assault and violence, especially when they are testifying or during interviews with prosecutors and other officials.

“Navigating the criminal justice system can be confusing and scary, especially for young people and other victims of sexual assault,” Foxx said at a special swearing-in ceremony for Hatty this week. “Victims are the center of our work, and I know personally that retelling a painful story of abuse can cause trauma all over again.”

State lawmakers in 2015 passed legislation allowing a comfort dog to be present when children or people with mental disabilities are testifying in court on sexual assault cases.

Hatty comes to Cook County at no cost to taxpayers through a partnership with Duo Dogs, a St. Louis-based nonprofit organization. The state's attorney's office staff also held a fundraiser to pay for food, equipment and comfort materials, and Hatty will be living with two office employees trained to care for a service animal.

The state's attorney's office estimates Hatty will appear in court with victims about twice a month and handle 150 to 200 cases per year.

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Hatty was on the job this week as the first support dog in the Cook County state's attorney's office. When not on the job, the 2-year-old Lab is living with a pair of staffers who've been trained in handling a service dog. Courtesy of Bill Richert

About that name

Hatty is short for “hat trick.” She came from a hockey-themed litter that included pups named Silky, Celly, Deke, Gino, Dangle, Puck and Casey.

<h3 class="leadin">Follow the leader

Hatty is following in the footprints of Mitchell, a fellow Lab who's been helping in the Lake County state's attorney's office since 2015, even before the state allowed dogs in court.

Mitchell, who's believed to be the first support dog to work in a prosecutor's office in Illinois, generally works at the county's Children's Advocacy Center. He's been joined in the Lake County prosecutor's office by Hitch, who spends his time working in the county's specialty courts.

<h3 class="leadin">Help available in DuPage

About 500 times a month, the Family Shelter Service of Metropolitan Family Services in DuPage County reaches out to a person who has told police of being abused by a relative, intimate partner or housemate.

And in many of those cases, the people on the other end don't know that a team is ready to help them improve their situations - by leaving, pursuing criminal charges or getting orders of protection.

Judge Ann Celine Walsh is chairwoman of the 18th Judicial Circuit's Family Violence Coordinating Council. Courtesy of the 18th Judicial Circuit Court

“We make assumptions about what people know about the judicial system,” said DuPage County Judge Ann Celine Walsh, chairwoman of the 18th Judicial Circuit's Family Violence Coordinating Council. “The judicial system is a frightening process.”

Walsh and agency leaders spoke with us this week as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to a close. The agency's office on the third floor of the DuPage courthouse in Wheaton has staffers ready to walk alongside victims, literally, into courtrooms. And if you can't get to the courthouse, they will come to you, even to hospital emergency rooms or police stations.

“I think this is an unknown entity as far as DuPage County goes,” said Bridget Hatch, the agency's marketing and media relations coordinator.

Their work also includes monthly clinics for people speaking Spanish, hosted by the West Chicago Police Department. Immigrants might be an underserved community, the agency believes, as some fear immigration consequences such as deportation if they seek help.

In fiscal year 2018, the agency helped people apply for 720 emergency orders of protection and assisted in 1,968 order-of-protection cases.

One of its most effective ways of reaching people is through its “bathroom project” - posters and small take-home cards in restrooms in doctor's offices, churches, libraries and other locations. A recent client had kept one of those cards for 20 years before calling, Hatch said.

If you need help, there's a confidential 24-hour hotline, (630) 469-5650, where trained personnel will assess your safety and discuss what options are available.

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Kathy Ecklund was named the Illinois State Police Telecommunicator of the Year this week. She works out of the ISP Des Plaines Communications Center. Courtesy of Illinois State Police

Award winner

Congratulations to Kathy Ecklund, who on Wednesday was named Telecommunicator of the Year by the Illinois State Police.

Described as “calm in a stream of chaos,” Ecklund has been a state police telecommunicator for 24 years and works out of the agency's Des Plaines Communications Center. According to the state police, Ecklund has earned the respect of her peers, subordinates and sworn officers throughout the department.

She's also played an important role in training newcomers. State police leaders point to an instance in which she guided a new hire through a lengthy armed robbery pursuit that traveled through several jurisdictions and ended when the suspects drove their vehicle into Lake Michigan and were captured.

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Arlington Heights police will show off the capabilities of their new drone during a public demonstration this afternoon. Courtesy of Arlington Heights Police

Droning on

Arlington Heights police are adding a drone to their tool kit, and they'll be showing off its capabilities to the public today.

The live demonstration is set for 1 p.m. at the police and fire training tower just south of Nickol Knoll Golf Club, 3800 N. Kennicott Ave. in Arlington Heights.

Officials say the drone, also available to the village's fire and public works departments, can help in situations ranging from search and rescues and hazmat responses to accident reconstruction and crime scene examinations.

Arlington Heights says it's one of the first Northwest suburbs to implement a drone program.

“Utilizing drones in public safety emergencies provides personnel with real-time information which may otherwise not have been readily available. Such information can allow for faster action when seconds matter most,” Cmdr. Greg Czernecki said in an announcement of the event.

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