Council hears SPD’s annual report

By Sheryl Roadcap - [email protected]

SIDNEY — Sidney Police officers use of force and overdose deaths were down in 2021; also, crash statistics were among the lowest in the last five years in Sidney, Police Chief Will Balling told Sidney City Council during his annual presentation of the police department’s statistics Monday evening.

His report revealed “2021 was a year with unique challenges and culture surrounding the law enforcement profession.” Balling credited Officer Rachel Croskey for creating the police department’s “first publishable” annual report, which he went through Monday.

“The Sidney Police Department strives for professionalism and integrity. Transparency with the community is our great honor.” Balling’s report said; the report can be downloaded by visiting the city’s website. “COVID-19 impacted policing the country has not seen before and for the first time police departments had to consider the benefits and risks of masking, responding to people who have tested positive for COVID-19, and vaccinations in a continuing pandemic. In addition, the riots from 2020 and distrust of law enforcement surrounding use of force and race concerns are still a discourse that law enforcement agencies are involved in.”

Year 2021 had the lowest use of force numbers since 2017, Balling pointed out. The department had 11 uses of force out of the 15,692 calls made in 2021. Use of force accounted for 0.07% of calls, he said.

The use of force toward suspects under the influence of alcohol or a mood disturbance, continued in 2021. Balling said the department only received six official complaints in 2021; all were reviewed by supervisors and found to be unfounded.

The amount of suspects with a weapon went down from 2020 to 2021, he noted. And the types of force used by officers were more evenly spread between physical, firearm, spray, and Taser in 2021, and were according to the city’s demographics.

The Sidney-Piqua Tactical Response Team (TRT) saw 10 deployments in 2021 in both Piqua and Sidney. Most notably, Balling said, the team apprehended Brandon Steele, the man who shot Sgt. Tim Kennedy, with no major injuries to any party. Steele was was safely apprehended, due to both the deployment of gas and contact with the hostage negotiation team.

Pertaining to the detective section of the department in 2021, the Melinda (Shaffer) McKinney murder, the only unsolved homicide in Sidney, was brought to a resolution. Allen Romell Harris pleaded guilty to attempted murder on Sept. 14, 2021.

Overdose deaths went down in 2021, Balling noted. Last year, there were approximately six deaths compared to the previous year with 10 (coroner’s results are pending).

The Sidney Police Department, in 2021, saw the highest number of people that reached out for help with drug-related issues since 2017. Despite drug deaths being down, Balling said there were more drug cases were brought to grand jury in 2021 than 2020.

Sidney Police K9 Officers Kilo and Kash assisted in 122 finds of narcotics, combined. Kilo assisted with seizing four vehicle and $488,880 in cash. Kash conducted on track and two apprehensions.

Officers conducted 4,423 traffic stops in 2021. Citations were up slightly at 1660 last year compared to 1,594 for both 2019 and 2020.

Regarding crashes, Balling said age was the major variable, with ages 65 and up being the leading factor, followed by the 15-25 age group. He provided multiple graphs depicting traffic and crash statistics.

The police chief’s report on traffic statistics showed there 469 crashes with just over 80 OVIs in the city. Most crashes occur on Wednesdays (and Fridays) from noon to 6 p.m.; a higher number take place in October of the 12 months. Balling said the majority of crashes in Sidney occur at intersection of Michigan Street and Vandemark Avenue.

Balling said SPDs community resource programs are finally returning in 2021 after being on pause due to COVID. These programs include Safety Town; the Citizen Police Academy and Teen Law Enforcement Workshop for Sidney High School students, which is similar to the Citizen Police Academy; “Cooking with a Cop;” National Night Out; Winter Wonderland; RAD (rape aggression defense), the 12-hour self-defense training program for women; active shoot presentations; scams and identity fraud presentations; and the behind the scenes preparation for the new cadet program.

He also detailed various awards officers have received and the numerous goals for 2022.

In other business, during public comments, Cumberland Avenue resident Joyce Jones asked city staff to look into the possibility of installing a street light at Cumberland Avenue and Fair Road.

City Manager Andrew Bowsher reminded all 2021 Sidney income tax returns are due no later than Monday, April 18, 2022. City hall is to be closed on Friday, April 15, but the drop box located outside City Hall can be used at any time of the day to submit your tax returns. He also congratulated the city finance department for earning Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada’s (GFOA) Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 22nd consecutive year.

By Sheryl Roadcap

[email protected]