SIDNEY — The Sidney Police Department (SPD) recently took the top honor in a nationwide police comprehensive safety contest.
The department was recognized in Washington D.C. during Police Week earlier this month.
Police Chief Will Balling, Capt. Bill Shoemaker and Officer Mike McRill represented SPD at the award ceremony and attended the candlelight vigil at the nation’s capital with over 30,000 officers, and friend and family of officers, for those who gave their lives in the line of duty. Balling noted that “it was an honor to take part in the ceremonies that week.”
The National Officer Safety and Wellness Awards program is part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance’s VALOR award program. Departments are honored for excellence in four categories: general officer safety, officer traffic safety, officer wellness and comprehensive safety.
According to the Destination Zero program, which helps agencies improve officers’ health and safety, the Comprehensive Safety Award recognizes the law enforcement agency that has successfully developed, implemented and promoted the most comprehensive and strategically implemented officer safety or officer wellness program.
Last year, SPD tied as runner-up for the Wellness Award which recognizes officer safety/wellness programs “that proactively engage employees in initiatives that increase overall officer wellness and/or reduce line-of-duty injuries or deaths.”
This year, SPD was chosen from over 160 nominations across Ohio for having “the most comprehensive program, demonstrating cooperation and buy in from the city, the community and the officers.” Past award winners include the Burlington (North Carolina) Police Department, New York Police Department, and the Orange County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office.
“Proud,” said Balling when asked how receiving the award makes him feel. “I think it shows that a smaller department, because I would still consider (SPD) a smaller department, can do really great things just as a bigger department can do.”
After the department’s second place win last year, Balling admitted he learned and then implemented some useful tips from other departments honored during last year’s award process.
The following programs are utilized at the SPD to help keep officers safe:
• Yearly physical fitness programs for all line officers and investigators;
• Working with an athletic trainer on site at the department;
• Mental health training;
• Medical examinations;
• Bullet resistant vests for all officers;
• Safety policies developed and implemented;
• Trauma informed training;
• Use of a critical incident team;
• Rapid response bags and additional bullet resistant vests and throw bags in every police cruiser;
• Licensed medical drug bag on our tactical response vehicle;
• Nutrition training;
• Financial training;
• Quick response tourniquets provided;
• Body worn cameras;
• Mental health check ups.
“All of our officers, patrol officers and investigators, they take a yearly physical fitness test, where they go out and run the mile and a half, the 300 meters, push ups, sit ups, or bench press; vertical jump. Because again for their own health and safety, we want them to have a good career here, but also retire and be healthy afterwards,” he said. “When we are looking at a program, we try to address the physical part, the mental part and also provide safety equipment; from bullet proof vest to rapid response to other equipment that will allow them to handle any situation.”
Balling said community partners also help contribute to officers’ well-being and stress reduction so they can do the best job possible. Organizations such as Wilson Health provides athletic trainer Woody Goffinett, NKP provides their health and wellness program’s nutritionist Ronda Fogt, Fifth Third Bank has brought in financial advisor Heather Finlayson, and Dr. Jackie Allen offers mental health training for officers. Aside from the SPD’s fitness room, the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA “stepped up,” Balling said, to make their facility available to the officers to help stay phyically fit. And, he said, Walmart provided the department with quick response tourniquets.
Balling expressed gratitude for the officers‘ support of the programs and willingness to try new things, as well to City Manager Mark Cundiff for allowing SPD “to do things outside of the box.”
“For any job, if you are under stress, you are not going to perform your job as well. You are not going to be as healthy. So, if we can give them tools to make their personal life a lot better, their professional life is going to be better, because you are going to see better quality and better results from them,” Balling said.
“I am proud of the city and our officers for their willingness to work hard try new programs and support each other every day. By maintaining better physical and mental condition we can serve the citizens of Sidney more professionally and exceed the expectations of our community,” he said.
If people wonder why SPD instituted the various programs, Balling said the overall benefits equals higher production from the officers. He said they take less sick days, are injured less often, and have had a decline in the use of force or other complaints because officers are better mentally and physically conditioned.
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