“Don’t ever tell them they’re safe! They are never safe!”
Those were the words barked at a young officer by a seasoned veteran after clearing from a domestic many years ago.
The brand new officer told a woman who had been badly battered by her husband, “We’re here. You are safe now.”
The new recruit thought they had arrived in the nick of time and arrested the husband before he could kill his wife. With the heart of a rookie still pounding excitedly in his chest, the boot told the sobbing and bleeding wife she was "safe", believing that his words would go a long way toward calming the woman’s fears and stemming the flow of her tears.
The old sage wisely mentored, “To commit a crime a criminal needs three things: an available target, an opportunity, and the desire. The victim in a domestic crime — who most often will choose to continue to live with her assailant — will be an ever-available target of opportunity 24/7. The abuser can take his sweet time about conjuring up the desire to do her harm or even kill her.”
He added, “It’s like living with a terrorist.”
He said again, “Don’t ever tell them they’re safe! They are never safe!”
The young officer learned, grew older, and never told another victim, “You are safe now.”
A career in law enforcement eventually taught him the hard way that the veteran cop who’d corrected him was right. Those words — “They are never safe” — are true.
This fact was proved true for all once again in a tragic way on Christmas Eve in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.
At approximately 0300 hours, 30-year-old Officer Jennifer Sebena of the Wauwatosa Police Department was inside the Wauwatosa Fire Department. Officers use the fire department often to write reports. She exited the fire station armed, wearing a vest, while heading toward her squad, which contained a long gun. She had a radio on her belt, which allowed her to summon assistance with the push of a button if she so desired.
The button was never pushed.
Less than three weeks earlier, Officer Sebena had told a colleague her husband — Benjamin Sebena — had become upset and put a gun to her head. In spite of this past history, it appears that as Jennifer walked toward her squad, she was unaware that her husband had (for several days) allegedly been stalking her while she was on duty.
It is believed that Benjamin ambushed his wife as she stepped out of the fire station into the darkness, firing two rounds into the back of her head with a 9mm semi-automatic handgun. As she lay helpless on the pavement, prosecutors claim he removed her .40-caliber duty weapon from her holster, and shot her three more times in the face.
Jennifer was found by a fellow officer hours later after a search was initiated when dispatch could not raise her on the radio.
The investigation focused on Benjamin Sebena, when a Detective heard Sebena say to himself, as he thought he was sitting alone in a room, “How could I do that to her?”
While searching the Sebena home, detectives found a 9mm weapon matching the description of the one used in the crime. They also found Jennifer’s duty weapon, which had been taken from the scene by her assailant.
Jennifer’s husband faces prosecution for her murder, with a $1 million bond set.
Remember a Great Officer...Remember Jennifer
Meanwhile, a department is mourning the loss of a young officer with great potential, killed in the line of duty. Wauwatosa Chief of Police Barry Weber said of Jennifer, “She was everything I could hope for in a young police officer — intelligent, energetic, willing to be of service and wanting to be a great police officer.”
Jennifer Lynn Sebena was indeed killed in the line of duty, not because she was a police officer, but in spite of the fact that she was a police officer. She was one of 126 officers who died in the line of duty in 2012. She knew she was at risk of death at the hands of someone who hated her when she courageously swore her oath as a police officer and pinned on the badge.
One has to believe that Jennifer, like most women, did not perceive herself at risk of death at the hands of someone who said he loved her when she said her vows and slipped on her wedding ring. In spite of the fact that she was very-well trained, well-armed and wearing a vest, she became one of 4,000 women who die every year as a result of domestic violence.
When it comes to victims of domestic violence, these words remain true: “Don’t ever tell them they’re safe! They are never safe!”
As we remember our fallen sister, Jennifer, her death reminds the realist in every one of us that it is wishful thinking to believe we can keep all the victims of domestic violence safe.
However, as God is our witness, we’ll never stop trying!