|| Sheriff's deputy likes helping people, making them feel safe
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ROCK ISLAND - It never was a question.
From childhood, Arturo Dominguez was steered by an instinctive sense of justice. He refused to help friends lie to their parents. He passed up parties and concerts he saw as potentially dangerous.
In the end, it was easy to predict he'd fall for a career that involved morality and helping people. He's now been with the Rock Island County Sheriff's Department for 10 years.
"As a police officer, most of us have this inherent feeling of right and wrong," said Deputy Dominguez, 40, as he adjusted his squad car's radio.
He eased into traffic, using one hand to work the squad computer that keeps tabs on all officers and tracks their GPS coordinates on a color-coded map.
"This is so much better than it used to be, when I first started. Before, I used to use these maps right here, plastic maps," he said, pulling out a collection of well-worn, laminated sheets from behind the passenger-side visor.
A Rock Island native and graduate of Rock Island High School, Deputy Dominguez said he never strayed much outside city limits before getting into law enforcement.
"I didn't even know there was a Silvis or a Carbon Cliff," Deputy Dominguez said. "Coal Valley was like France."
He joined the Army after high school, completing basic training at Fort McClellan in Anniston, Ala., and returned home to serve 10 years in the Army Reserve in Davenport.
He worked at Miller Container in Rock Island and as a security guard for John Deere before joining the Carbon Cliff Police Department. He was a sergeant when he left after five years, and said working in a village of less than 2,000 taught him how to handle situations alone.
Deputy Dominguez started with the sheriff's department in 2004, where he often responds to calls alone.
He said the 'tough guy' stereotype isn't his style. Rather, he said he's learned to listen and reassure to diffuse a situation.
Scanner traffic crackled through his radio as he talked. Deputies use a phonetic alphabet, with specific words corresponding to each letter of the alphabet, to relay information (such as license plate numbers) over the radio.
When he first started in law enforcement, Deputy Dominguez said he mixed up the police codes with his military background. "When I was in the army, it was Whiskey-Tango. Here, it's William-Tom."
He's assigned to a courtroom one day a week and is on patrol the other four.
Accidents involving young people are among the most challenging, and medical calls usually are his favorite."When people are by themselves and afraid, and we get there, they're so happy to see us."
It's often the negative parts of the job that hit you, once the call is cleared and the adrenaline has subsided, Deputy Dominguez said.
More than once, he's driven away from a call, thinking: "That could have gone bad in so many ways. If somebody would have just made a certain choice, it would have been a whole different ending."
Typically, he tries to talk with people after their arrest, to learn their story and offer advice.
"You see the guy, and you see yourself in him -- it might be a young man or young woman -- and you try to be positive," he said, adding that teens often mimic the negative behavior of their peers.
Poverty is a systemic issue, and as a police officer, Deputy Dominguez said it can be difficult to step back, knowing there's a strong probability the same person will re-offend.
It feels affirming to learn you have had a positive impact on someone, he said. He remembered a young man he arrested for a DUI 12 years ago. Five years later, the man thanked Deputy Dominguez for the advice he had given.
"Little things like that make you happy about your job, make you feel like you're doing something," Deputy Dominguez said.
Sheriff Jeff Boyd said Deputy Dominguez's easy rapport and approachable personality are perfect for patrol work. "I think Art brings a wealth of experience. But more importantly, Art brings people together."
Sheriff Boyd said his office recently received a letter from a resident praising Deputy Dominguez.
Being a good patrol officer is a lot more than driving around, the sheriff said, adding that the ability to gain someone's trust and respect is vital.
"You get that feeling and that sense from him when you're in his presence -- that he approaches policing with that perspective of 'I'm here to help,'" Sheriff Boyd said.
During his off-duty time, Deputy Dominguez likes to run and exercise, and tries to disconnect work from his personal life, preferring to discuss his job only with fellow deputies.
If he couldn't do police work, Deputy Dominguez said he'd try his hand at carpentry or law. "I see good attorneys, and I see the good they do."
As he said that, a SUV rolled through a nearby stop sign. Deputy Dominguez stopped the driver and talked to him for several minutes before returning to his squad, saying he gave the man a warning. "He did the California stop."
As Deputy Dominguez drove back to the sheriff's department, he said, "We're like the watchmen of the county. I like doing that, making people safe."
Parking his squad car at the entrance of the sheriff's department, he gave an easy grin.
"I love the job. I don't know what else I'd do. I would love to do this until I can't do it anymore."