JOB: crime prevention coordinator with the UI Police Department. She is one of nine women on the force of 51 sworn officers. She was Officer of the Year in 1997.
NEXT CHALLENGE: She'll soon become a mother. She is only the second officer in the history of the UIPD to work while pregnant, and she is the first officer to be pregnant with twins. A boy and girl are due Feb. 22.
HOMETOWN: The 33-year-old Lauher is a native of Kansas, near Charleston. She and her husband, Ralph Hamlin, a UI police investigator, live in Sidney.
How and when did you get started as a police officer?
I came here from the Air Force. I was stationed at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, where I also was a police officer. I was there for four years. I was lucky enough to be hired here about a year before the base closed.
What attracted you to a career in law enforcement?
It's kind of like the standard answer whenever you ask anybody, 'Why did you want to be a police officer?' It's something I always wanted to do. When I was little, I had a friend whose father was a sheriff's deputy and I always thought that was so cool.
Another thing that I think is neat about the job is that every day is different from the day before. You never know what's going to happen each day you come to work.
It seems like it would be a really scary job. How do you keep from being scared to death when you walk up to stopped cars at night?
Oh there is fear there. But the training helps you learn how to deal with people and deal with certain situations. So you are prepared for any type of situation. And the more prepared you are the less frightened you'll feel in the end. I don't think any police officer would tell you there's nothing out there that doesn't create some fear. But if you get to the point where you're not scared of anything, then that's the time that something's going to happen, I think.
What kind of assignments have you had since you started here in '91?
At first I worked patrol - I was assigned to a squad car, walking beats, just normal police duties. Then after that we started community policing and I was assigned to Orchard Downs as my community police beat. The whole premise of community policing is that you get to know your community and get to know what the problems are. They want you to get out of the car, talk to the people and their neighbors. Orchard Downs is such a diverse community; it was a really neat experience.
And then after that I was assigned to Crime Prevention and I've been doing that for a little over three years now. There are two Crime Prevention Coordinators, and we've split the responsibilities of the campus in half. I take everything west of Wright Street.
How do you work to prevent crime?
We coordinate different crime-prevention functions in our areas. We'll do presentations, and we'll go out and check an office if someone's concerned about security in their office, and we will give people advice on how to deal with difficult people. And we do other things like teach the Rape Aggression Defense Class.
And I just recently got certified to check child-passenger safety seats.
What's the best part about being a UI cop?
This campus has such diverse people, it's really neat to be able to meet all the different people who make up the campus community.
What's the worst part?
Standing out on a traffic post when it's zero-below and snowing, but you know you have to be out there because you have to help traffic get into the parking lots.
Have you had a role model or someone who especially inspired you in law enforcement?
Yes, two people. My boss Captain Kris Fitzpatrick and Investigator Viki Hawley. Both of these women joined the police department when women weren't really accepted, and they have both accomplished many things. I really respect both of these women and what they have done for women in law enforcement.
What's it like for you as a family, since you and your husband are both cops?
I think it works out really well because we can both relate through our jobs. Sometimes officers have a hard time talking to a spouse about what they've done during the day. But we can relate that way. I think it makes our relationship strong. We've been married since 1993.
Do you have names picked out for your twins?
Hannah Marie and William Zeno. We're going to call him Will.
You'll be returning to work after the babies are born?
Oh yes, but I envision a crazy life for a while. I've had a lot of people give me a lot of advice. And a lot of people are saying they can't believe I'm going to be able to do this. [She laughs.] But I came from a big family so I think we'll be able to cope. But I'm sure it's going to be crazy in the beginning.
How has it gone over around the police station, having such a pregnant officer on board?
I've had a lot of encouragement from the entire department, as far as being pregnant on the job.
And it's very well accepted among the officers too. I think this is a very family-oriented police department. We've had a lot of officers and civilian staff who have had babies within the last two or three years.