SIDNEY — It is national telecommunication technician week in the city of Sidney. Mayor Mike Barhorst announced the proclamation recognizing April 11-17, 2021, as the week to honor Sidney dispatchers during the Sidney City Council meeting Monday evening.
“The safety of law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel is dependent upon the preciseness and accuracy of information obtained from citizens who telephone the city of Sidney telecommunication center, and public safety telecommunicators are the first and most critical contact our citizens have with those providing emergency services,” Barhorst said in part when presenting the proclamation to four of Sidney’s dispatchers.
He further noted telecommunicators are the single vital link for police and fire by providing them with information and helping to ensure their safety. Sidney dispatchers, Barhorst said, contribute substantially to the apprehension of criminals, suppression of fires and treatment of those suffering injuries.
Also Monday, Police Chief Will Balling presented council members with the annual report on the Sidney Police Department (SPD). He spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest in 2020 affected the police department. The pandemic reduced the police force and prevented officers from enforcing warrants due to the smaller number of prisoners being held at the Shelby County Jail.
“Our officers had to adjust how to keep themselves safe and members of the public safe while still performing a dangerous job, still with performing with care and compassion through that and be able to talk to hear people,” Balling said.
Due to COVID-19, Balling said, they are down two officers and were unable to bring in community and self-defense programs. Also, domestic violence and overdoses increased in Sidney in 2020, due to the pandemic.
Balling noted across America people were calling for the defunding of police and for reform and changes. Sidney, fortunately, he said, did not experience any unrest but instead saw demonstrations. Police used those demonstrations to talk with those gathered and to connect and learn.
The SPD’s use of force, Balling said, is at 0.0005% of the calls for service, which averages about 32,000 per year. In 2020, the department used force only 15 times. He expressed feeling blessed Sidney citizens work with officers and are the reason why the number is low.
Although calls for service were down from 33,894 in 2019, to 30,378 in 2020, incident reports were up at 4,062 in 2020, compared to 2,780 in 2019. Citations remained the same at 1,594 for both 2019 and 2020; crash reports, arrests and traffic stops were all down in 2020.
There were two murders in 2020. Also last year there 31 forcible rapes, 11 robberies and 55 aggravated assault reported.
Barhorst asked Balling the difference between assault and aggravated assault. Balling explained aggravated assault involves a more serious injury such as a broken bone or with a weapon being used. A simple assault may result in a bruise, he said.
Property crimes remained about the same in 2020, with 85 burglaries/breaking and entering, 71 shoplifting, 266 general thefts and 34 motor vehicle theft reports.
The police chief’s report on traffic statistics showed there were two fatalities, 469 crashes and 52 OVIs in the city. Most crashes occur on Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 6 p.m. Balling said the majority of crashes in Sidney occur at intersection of Michigan Street and Vandemark Avenue.
SPD’s investigative section was very busy last year, Balling said. It conducted 33 forensic interviews and processed three cell phones and two computers.
The department’s drug unit presented 208 felony cases to the grand jury. Balling’s report showed 54 people were charged with drug codes and 184 drug charges were brought forth.
Police followed up 199 times with residents who overdosed and had 81 people contact SPD seeking help for drug addiction.
“Child porn. This is probably one of the dirty secrets out there, but child porn does exist,” Balling said. “Child porn is in Sidney like it happens anywhere else, and unfortunately it happens outside of Sidney where people are reaching into Sidney to people who are citizens and our children trying and entice them.”
In 2020, seven people were taken to the grand jury for cases involving child porn.
Balling reminded council the department uses body cameras. He expressed feeling blessed having them and the help of being able to monitor what happens at the scene.
Every officer trains more than 50 hours per year for deescalation, driving, self-defense tactics and how to talk with citizens. The department constantly updates its policies and procedures. And finally, he said, SPD supports the idea of a police oversight board, which the state of Ohio is looking into implementing.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.