For the past three years, SafeWise has been dedicated to honoring the safest communities in America through our Safest Cities Reports. This year we have decided to go a step further and recognize outstanding local heroes. The SafeWise Heroes Award will honor the police officers, firemen, community officials, and everyday citizens that go above and beyond for the safety of their communities.
Our first SafeWise Hero is Officer Bryan Strockbine, of the Evesham, New Jersey Police Department, who saved 3 lives in the span of 10 days this March.
On March 8, 2016, Bryan Strockbine received a dispatch call that a dead body had been found on a front lawn in his area. Armed only with this information and his emergency training, he arrived on scene.
Strockbine was first on the scene where a 69-year-old woman, who he would later learn had been the victim of domestic violence, was found on her front lawn. She had been unconscious for an estimated seven minutes, at that point, and was turning blue and foaming at the mouth.
Strockbine began CPR, just as he and every member of his department had repeatedly practiced in mandatory training sessions, and kept it up until help arrived.
Practicing CPR on a dummy, he said, is “nothing like” performing the lifesaving measure on a human being, so it’s important to be prepared.
“They always tell you, ‘You’re going to end up breaking ribs,’” Strockbine said. “When you’re doing the compressions, and you can hear the ribs breaking, it’s almost like, ‘Oh, wow, it’s true. It really happens.’”
After three long minutes emergency medical responders rushed in and, just as they began hooking up the AED, Strockbine saw the woman’s eyes flutter open.
He saw her leg move. He checked for a heartbeat.
“It was almost like I wanted to do a backflip… I was so excited I found a pulse,” he said. “It’s hard to describe what that moment was like; to know…somebody was lifeless, and all of a sudden they’re back.”
But it wasn’t until later, in front of local TV news cameras with a lump in his throat, that Strockbine realized what it all meant.
The woman’s son read a letter of gratitude and the two men embraced, each fighting back tears as they spoke.
“He said, ‘Because of what you did, I still have my mom,” Strockbine said. “My kids will have their grandma.’ I guess that didn’t go through my head when all that was going on,” he added.
By the time she was in the ambulance, the woman was already talking, and told officers she’d been attacked and beaten by her husband. Police were able to track down and arrest the man.
Strockbine, a 12-year veteran of the Evesham Police Department, credits the ongoing training and day-to-day experience for the three lives he was able to save in 10 days.
“This whole entire thing has made my head spin,” said Strockbine, 37. “I’m honored to be recognized… I’ve gotten cards and letters from all over the country, but it’s almost like I don’t feel like I don’t deserve it. I know I did good things, but I (just) did my job.”
To ensure officers are prepared to act effectively and professionally in any situation, as Strockbine did, Evesham Police Chief Christopher Chew places a heavy emphasis on training.
Each day, on-duty officers are presented with potential scenarios, giving them the opportunity to discuss responsibilities of different situations, as well as department and community expectations.
“We are constantly just reiterating that daily to our officers…and trying to put ourselves in a position before it happens,” Chew said.
Officer Bryan Strockbine (left) and Sergeant Richard Dixon from his shift (right)
Strockbine couldn’t have been happier about the outcome, and was grateful his profession received some positive media attention.
Still, while those in his community view him as a hero, he sees himself as a regular guy doing his job – a job he knows he could never do without his fellow officers. Together, he said, the department operates like a well-oiled machine.
“Everybody… does their thing without even thinking,” he said. “I have a good a good group of guys and girls on my squad, and for things to go as smoothly as they do, I think that says a lot.”
The two following incidents played out much the same way.
On March 12, when dispatchers issued an alert about an erratic driver, Strockbine realized the car was headed straight toward his location and pulled over to wait. A short time later, the vehicle came into view and crashed into another car.
When Strockbine saw the driver losing consciousness, he knew he had to act, and used a glass-breaking device to shatter the passenger window, unlocked the car and got the driver out.
”We’re in the middle of the highway. Things are crazy. Cars are going by. There’s just people everywhere,” he said.
Later, after emergency medical responders took over, Strockbine learned the man was in the throes of a diabetic emergency.
Then, on March 18, Strockbine again administered CPR after an elderly man called 9-1-1 when his wife stopped breathing.
“It seemed like within a couple minutes, she reacted, she was back,” he said, adding he wouldn’t mind if he didn’t have to do CPR again for a while.
At the station, Chief Chew was proud of Strockbine’s performance, and the recognition he received from SafeWise.
“Bryan has consistently been one of our better officers throughout his career,” Chew said, noting he often receives compliments about Strockbine from community members. “It was really nice to see somebody like him get acknowledged.
“It’s great for the police department because I see great things (officers) do every single day,” he added.
Chew also said the whole community – not just the officers – play a role in his department’s success on the streets: From the elected officials who encourage and financially support citizen police academies and other programs, to businesses who participate in outreach initiatives such as Coffee with a Cop.
The department also emphasizes building relationships with the community’s youngest members; officers give out coupons for free slushies, ice cream or pizza when they spot kids wearing helmets while bike riding, or just doing something positive in the community.
“It gives us the opportunity to get out of the police car, talk to our children, let them know that we are approachable,” Chew said.
Do you know someone who showcased exceptional training, bravery or went above and beyond to keep his or her community safe? Send your nomination for the SafeWise Heroes series to email@example.com.