The nation recently observed National Police Week (May 13-19). It marked the first time that Sidney Police Chief Will Balling, Operations Captain Bill Shoemaker and Community Resource Officer Mike McRill had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in some of the activities during the week. Their trip was the result of the Sidney Police Department being recognized by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (DOJBJA).
Among other programs, the DOJBJA administers a program called Destination Zero. The Destination Zero program is designed to help agencies improve the health and safety of law enforcement officers across the country.
The primary goal of the Destination Zero program is to create a platform that provides all U.S. law enforcement agencies with the ability to research successful or promising officer safety and wellness programs and identify the resources necessary to begin their own risk management initiatives. Destination Zero is designed to recognize programs that proactively engage employees in initiatives that increase overall officer wellness and/or reduce line-of-duty injuries or deaths.
Each year, the DOJBJA presents wellness awards in four categories, and winners are acknowledged during Police Week ceremonies in the Nation’s Capital. Those four categories include: 1) General Officer Safety; 2) Officer Traffic Safety; 3) Officer Wellness; and, 4) Comprehensive Safety.
Within each category, an award is given to the agency that has developed or implemented the most effective and measurable program. The Awards Committee considers programs in the first three categories and evaluates their overall integration, effectiveness, and durability.
The fourth award — the one presented to the Sidney Police Department — is presented to the agency that has the most comprehensive initiative and best overall approach to implementing its safety and wellness program. The goal is to identify successful programs that benefit every type and category of agency.
The Sidney Police Department was recognized as having a program that employs an overarching marketing strategy that embraces voluntary participation and an enhanced departmental awareness, and has achieved a high degree of employee buy-in through its creative and innovative marketing strategies. In addition, the criteria for receiving the award include the program being widely accepted by the members of the department, that there is a high participation rate, and that it is considered a success by the agency. It is also desired that the manner in which the program was introduced and strategies to generate participation can be replicated by other agencies.
The Sidney Police Department was a finalist for this award in 2017. I certainly join in congratulating the department for making the subsequent improvements on their safety initiative to become a winner in 2018!
Every officer in the department has been issued a quick response tourniquet, a trauma care kit, and enhanced ballistic protection. The department invested in magnetic microphone holders for every vehicle, after learning about the idea from another Destination Zero award winner. Each vehicle also has a rapid response bag containing extra ammunition, blood pressure bandages, quick clot agents, and tactical response gear. Every officer in the department was issued a body worn camera and trained on how to use it.
The department has implemented a mandatory seatbelt policy and reduced the use of cell phones and in-car computers while the vehicle is in motion. Dash cameras in the vehicles are programmed to begin recording once the vehicle reaches a speed of 80mph or higher. Driver training is provided to all officers, both for high-speed and low-speed conditions so the officers better understand their abilities and how to handle the patrol car in various situations. The Sidney Police Department did not have any injuries resulting from officer-involved collisions over the course of past year (in fact, we fortunately have not had serious officer involved injuries as a result of a collision for as long as anyone can remember.)
The department also created a spousal support program to open communication with an officer’s family from the time they start with the department. The spouses of current officers have volunteered as support peers for the new officers’ spouses.
Police Chief Will Balling meets with each new officer to discuss their future and the pitfalls of the law enforcement profession. Every officer is paid to attend a health and wellness seminar that focuses on financial wellness, nutrition, tactical medicine and mental well being. All officers attend an eight-hour block of training on trauma-informed policing, participate in a mandatory fitness program, and are introduced to a mental health wellness checkup program in conjunction with a private counseling center.
While not part of this award program, readers may also be interested in knowing that as a part of the recruit/selection process, candidates undergo pre-employment psychological testing to ensure that they are good candidates for the law enforcement profession. The screening evaluates a number of personality traits. These traits include such things as impulse control, judgment, the ability to perform boring or tedious tasks, courage, honesty, integrity, personal bias, ability to tolerate stress, motivating factors in desiring a career in law enforcement, dependability, ability to deal with supervision, appropriate attitudes towards sexuality and prior drug use.
The Sidney Police Department is to be commended for their proactive approach to policing. The ability to win awards on a national level against departments serving populations 100 to 1000 times the size of Sidney is due in no small part to leadership. Between the chief and the three captains who serve the department, they have more than 9 decades of service!
Although Police Week has passed, the next time you see a member of the Sidney Police Department, I would encourage you to congratulate them. When you engage them in conversation, also thank them for their service to the community
The writer is the mayor of Sidney.