A woman called Huntley Police Sgt. Linda Hooten after every court hearing to detail the steps she was taking to get away from the man she’d been stuck with in a domestic violence situation for years.
She said she was finally going to get him to stop, Hooten recalled.
“It was so great to see that,” Hooten said. “Because I also see the other side, where they’re not ready to leave and they keep going back. To hear the confidence in her voice, it was great. I was her cheerleader.”
For Hooten, her job as the domestic violence coordinator for the Huntley Police Department is filled with these small but powerful moments that remind her why she does what she does. The reminder could come in the form of a phone call, an aside after a presentation or the realization a survivor has after 10 conversations with the police.
“It’s very rewarding and knowing they feel more empowered and they feel like there is a way out,” Hooten said. “... I know it takes them a long time to make the decision to leave.”
A member of the Huntley Police Department for 15 years, Hooten has been the domestic violence coordinator since the position was created in 2009 in response to a murder suicide that stemmed from an abusive relationship. Her job entails monitoring and screening all the domestic violence reports and coordinating any necessary follow up.
Hooten said when she looks at the department now, she sees one that is better equipped to deal with domestic violence. For example, she said police reports that used to describe the victim as “sad” now will include details about the mascara streaming down the victim’s face.
Her work helped when county protocol relating to domestic violence was rewritten in 2012, and Huntley’s program has been a model for other agencies.
In 2015, Huntley had 268 domestic violence contacts compared to about 400 when her position was created in 2009.
Hooten also has worked with the Child Advocacy Center as a forensic interviewer since 2007, interviewing more than 100 children who have suffered some sort of abuse. She said her mom questioned her decision to put herself in a position that would involve hearing such troubling accounts.
“I would rather endure it than seeing that child not be able to talk about it,” Hooten said. “It’s hard for them to process it. If it’s hard for an adult, imagine a child trying to process it.”
Hooten’s dedication to the job is clear to her boss, Deputy Chief of the Support Services Bureau Todd Fulton. Working with survivors of domestic violence and child victims can be an especially trying assignment, but he’s seen Hooten throw herself into the work.
“She was definitely the right person for this position,” Fulton said. “I think it’s something she took seriously and hit the ground running. She is very passionate.”
Hooten’s strengths are a combination of her wealth of knowledge about handling domestic violence and her big heart, said Bev Thomas, the coordinator for the 22nd Judicial Circuit’s Family Violence Coordinating Council, which Hooten has been part of for years.
“Her background and knowledge of domestic violence issues is unsurpassed in the county,” Thomas said. “The way she deals with the most important life-affecting issues shows a real compassion and great understanding.”
There’s no other way for Hooten to be as a police officer, a job she’s wanted since sixth grade. While her job has changed from school resource officer to domestic violence coordinator and supervising the investigations division, her motivation hasn’t.
“It goes back to seeing somebody who thought they couldn’t get out of a situation or couldn’t overcome a situation that they were in,” Hooten said. “That I could be a part of that and help them move forward.”