Written by J. Patrick Eaken
Friday, 17 October 2008 15:13
Pemberville Police Chief Richard E. Bingham wants to see his department involved in the community, and vice versa.
So, Chief Bingham asked the village to implement two new programs — a Citizens Watch Program and a Citizens Ride-Along Program.
Chief Bingham brought the programs to council, council approved them, and now he says "he's looking forward to getting them started."
If anyone is interested in seeing what police work is about, Chief Bingham invites them to come to the police department and pick up a Citizens Ride-Along packet in the lobby. The packet consists of a waiver of liability and background questionnaire.
Chief Bingham says the purpose is to provide interested citizens the opportunity to observe the daily operations of the department and the types of tasks performed by the officers.
"If you watch 'Cops' on Saturday night, you'll be able to experience it here," Chief Bingham said.
"We just feel that you can better appreciate someone's work if you walk in their shoes," Mayor James Opelt said. "We just feel residents will understand a little bit more what they go through as they do their job each day."
Participants are to report to the department at an assigned starting time and will be assigned to an officer. Participants cannot interfere with an officer's duties or investigations, including conversing with victims, suspects, or witnesses; handling evidence or police practice equipment unless otherwise directed; or question the officer or police practice while the officer is engaging in performing police duties.
If a situation becomes dangerous, the officer must require the participant to exit the vehicle at a safe location if possible, and the officer cannot unduly place the participant in physical jeopardy.
Applications for ride-alongs must be submitted 72 hours in advance, and participation is limited to four hour sessions, twice per year, unless otherwise approved by the chief. Requests can be denied for various reasons, and certain rules regarding participation's behavior and dress are required.
Applicants will be notified of when they have been cleared to participate. Pemberville residents will have first priority for open spots, followed by citizens of the Eastwood School District and finally the general public.
The Citizens Watch Program is to help the elderly or those who have health problems.
The village is making an effort to collect information packets from senior citizens and anyone who lives with a health issue. Packets can be picked up in the lobby of the police department or at the village hall. Police say residents who cannot pick up a package should call police, and a packet will be delivered to their residence.
"We're just trying to keep information on our senior citizens in our community so we can help them the best we possibly can," Mayor Opelt said. "There are many times that someone may see something that doesn't look right, and so forth, and if we have that information on file of who lives in the house and who is supposed to be there, and if they are alone or if they have a car, of if they have a pet, or those kinds of things, the police can go on and deal with those situations faster than if they are totally unaware of what is in that home."
Chief Bingham was recently hired from the City of Wauseon police force, but says he is looking for his family to move to Pemberville as soon as their Wauseon home is sold. The chief said he brought the ideas for the programs from Wauseon, and from several other communities in Ohio that have implemented similar programs.
"It's a program I wanted to start because a lot of my citizens are older than the age of 55 and I wanted to find out who are my people who have some health issues or are alone, so we know if we have some people we need to make some calls on," Chief Bingham said. "We want to make sure if something happens, if you're not with next of kin, to give us authority to bust in the door if we feel it's necessary to see if you're okay.
"It's a program where we keep an eye on people. It's actually very successful in a lot of communities, and we hope in Pemberville, here, where a lot, or the majority of our people are older, we always want to keep an eye on those folks. Who will need a little extra attention?" the police chief continued.
Mayor Opelt believes both programs are great innovations by Chief Bingham, a 22-year police veteran.
"I support them both whole-heartedly," said Mayor Opelt. "This new police chief has come up with many new ideas and programs, and almost all of them are costing us little to nothing, and even a few that will cost us nothing at all.
"He's great. What's good about this new chief is he is very good in his administration, he's very good in working with other personnel, but he's also one who has no problem with getting up and working on the street, or working the beat, or making the stops or taking the complaints. He's willing to do everything, and he's a great leader in that he will set by example."