SIDNEY — When Sidney Rotary Club Vice President John Bertsch rang the bell at the start of the club’s meeting, Monday, Sept. 11, he asked Rotarians to observe a moment of silence in honor of the first responders and victims whose lives were lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
Bertsch then introduced Sidney Police Chief Will Balling and Detective Timothy Kennedy, who was named the Sidney Police Department’s Officer of the Year.
“This award is unique in that the recipient is nominated by his peers. They are required to list the reasons they believe the nominated individual should be recognized as the Officer of the Year. I learn so much about my officers that I didn’t previously know through the nomination process,” Balling told the Rotarians.
“Unfortunately, Detective Kennedy was unable to be with us earlier in the spring when the award was announced, but given the fact that the day is dedicated to the memory of so many first responders who gave their lives on Sept. 11, it seems appropriate that he is able to join us today,” Balling said.
“Kennedy was hired in 2007 by former Police Chief Steve Wearly and transitioned from patrol to the detective section in 2016. He is active in the community, volunteering by coaching youth sports. Kennedy and his wife, Angie, have six children and reside in Sidney. Detective Kennedy is a team player and gives all that he can for the department and the city,” Balling said. “From following up on background checks to investigating a homicide, he is always willing to go the extra mile. He brings a unique style to the investigative section. Detective Kennedy embodies the Sidney Police Department’s core values of professionalism, courage, integrity and compassion. He exceeds the expectations of our community.”
Kennedy spoke briefly following the presentation of the plaque.
“I’m blessed to be here. I’m blessed to be in this city,” Kennedy said. “I certainly want to take this opportunity to thank the Sidney Rotary Club for all you have done to support the department, all you have done in the community and all that you have done beyond the Sidney community.”
Balling then told the Rotarians about the department’s first-ever community survey.
“In 2014, President Obama issued an executive order appointing an 11-member task force on 21st-century policing to respond to a number of serious incidents between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect. The task force focused on six pillars: building trust and legitimacy, policy and oversight, technology and social media, community policing and crime reduction, training and education and officer wellness and safety. One of the paramount recommendations from this task force was for departments to conduct a community survey and to publish the results,” Balling said.
“This summer we conducted such a survey. We had the opportunity to have a senior from Bowling Green (State) University complete an internship with us. She worked with the head of the criminal justice program of the University of Louisville to develop a community survey and validate the findings. There were several different methods to collect the information and a concentrated effort to have a true sample of the population provide input that we can use to improve our department. There were approximately 100 hours spent completing this survey at no cost to the taxpayers,” the police chief said.
“The survey results indicated that overall the community believes the police department provides good service and that they feel safe in the city of Sidney. There was a direct correlation to the effect that if a person had been a victim of a crime that they would feel less safe, which was understandable. The survey also showed that there are areas in which we can improve and will strive to consistently exceed the expectation of our community,” Balling said. He invited the Rotarians to read the entire report on the city’s website.
Balling then discussed the introduction of body cameras.
“High profile incidents and allegations of police misconduct have driven a wedge between law enforcement officers and the citizens they have sworn to protect. Recent events, such as those in Ferguson (Missouri), New York City and Cleveland remind us that we must never be complacent in our efforts to build and sustain trust throughout the communities that we serve,” he said. “The Sidney Police Department would like to promote accountability and transparency in police-citizen interaction through the use of body cameras. In 2016, the department applied for an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant. The Office of Criminal Justice selected the department as one of the grant award winners, and we received $23,061 from the state of Ohio. The total cost of the project with a server for the storage of videos was approximately $67,000. Storage is the major issue,” Balling continued.
“All patrol officers and investigators will be equipped with a body camera. The body cameras will be used during all citizen contacts unless the situation dictates privacy. The videos will be stored according to our record-retention policy, and we will also have a random review of videos by our supervisor to ensure that we are meeting our mission and vision statements,” Balling said.
“We are fortunate that all of our personnel wanted the cameras and believe that they will be an important tool. We will know when officers are doing well and be able to praise them. We expect that the cameras will improve our transparency within the community, improve officer performance, reduce the number of complaints filed upon officers and provide evidence for investigations,” he said.
Before concluding his remarks, Balling spoke briefly about the Citizens Patrol Academy, a self-defense class for females and a new self-defense class for kids. He also spoke briefly about a grant in the amount of $50,000 received from the Ohio attorney feneral’s office to help combat heroin.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Balling answered a host of questions from the Rotarians in attendance.