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Making a difference keeps deputy going

Staff writer

A deep-seated desire to help people who needed it led deputy Joel Womochil to his 16 years in law enforcement.

“I wanted to be a cop since I was 6 years old,” Womochil said.

Growing up in Abilene, he liked to tag along with his grandfather who cleaned the police station. Womochil liked the atmosphere of the police department.

“As I got older I thought more of myself as a protector,” Womochil said. “I protected those who were bullied or could not protect themselves. I didn’t have a group during my high school years. I floated among all the groups, but when I stood up for someone, I was respected.”

He is the first in his family to go into the profession.

Womochil has been with Marion County sheriff’s office since 2020 and became Burns police chief in February.

He also has been a part-time Peabody officer.

Earlier in his career, he worked for the Ottawa County sheriff’s office and jail, El Dorado prison, Kansas National Guard military police, and at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita under a limited commission with the Sedgwick County sheriff’s office.

Every job was a step toward reaching his goal of being an officer, he said.

Womochil is certified in advanced roadside impaired driving enforcement.

Getting that certification was important to him because five members of his own family have been killed by drunken drivers.

“Now we see more drug-impaired driving than alcohol-impaired driving,” he said.

The training helps him better ascertain what category of drug the driver is using.

“It is amazingly accurate,” Womochil said. “That’s one of the things I like about it.”

He is certified as a crisis prevention instructor.

Crisis prevention training is about relating to people who are mentally ill to gain their cooperation instead of triggering them and then having to force them into cooperation.

“The two things they need are respect and options,” he said. “If you can find a way to give them those two things, they cooperate with you and follow directions. You’ll get them to cooperate without force.”

The training taught him ways to work with a mentally ill person without escalating the situation.

Womochil’s interest in crisis prevention began when he worked at Wesley.

“I would say 80 to 90% of our calls involved people dealing with mental illness,” he said.

Patients needing treatment also needed to be spoken to in a way that helped them feel safe and cooperate.

“My next step is to become a drug-recognition expert,” he said. “That’s identifying what drug someone might be on.”

During his months as Burns police chief, he has done a lot to expand law enforcement services there. The city now has a municipal court with a city prosecutor and two part-time officers.

Womochil serves as a liaison for Kansas chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors, an organization that provides support to families of police officers slain in the line of duty.

The most fulfilling part of doing what Womochil does is knowing that normal, everyday things he does can make a tremendous difference in the lives of people he encounters.

“When I stop someone for speeding, I might have stopped them from having a wreck later,” he said.

When he stops a drunken or drugged driver, he might have saved that person’s life or the lives of a family of six.

“There’s not many jobs where the smallest detail of an everyday work day can have that much of an effect,” he said.

Last modified Oct. 20, 2022

 

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