LIMA — Four Allen County police chiefs visited the Lima Rotary Club meeting Monday to discuss community issues and explain how the job has changed over the last decade due to shifting public expectations and emerging new technologies.
As is the case with many governmental agencies, law enforcement departments have been asked to do more with less as budgets shrink. The job has evolved as a result.
Shawnee Township Police Chief Mike Keith said his department began dealing with diminishing budgets in 2005. At that time, new equipment purchases were spaced further apart and training courses weren’t pursued unless required, Keith said.
Allen County Sheriff Matt Treglia said the $8.9 million budget the department receives today must be stretched to fund the Allen County jail — a difficult task when the number of inmates becomes larger than expected.
Meanwhile, the public has changed its perception of law enforcement due to a number of high-profile cases of police abuse. Many metro police departments across the nation have adopted body cameras as a way to add transparency regarding such cases.
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said body cameras will soon be equipped by Lima Police Department officers now that City Council has agreed to a roughly $500,000 contract to purchase the equipment.
However, Martin cautioned against an overreliance on body cameras as the cure-all to all potential incidents.
“Although cameras are a good tool, they won’t be a perfect tool,” Martin said.
Law enforcement has also changed how it communicates to the public in the last decade. Most police departments now have social media accounts on a number of platforms, and they have utilized tools like Facebook to pursue leads and send messages to their followers.
Martin said he was initally hesitant about sinking department resources into social media, but when it was used to locate a missing child and he saw how the public responded to postings, he changed his mind on the part social media could play in community relations.
Lt. Tim Grigsby, of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said the department uses social media to send safety messaging targeted specifically for teenagers and young adults.
Another aspect that has changed law enforcement duties in the last few years has been the increase in opioid-related overdoses. Most officers are now trained to use naloxone — a nasal spray that prevents overdose deaths — and officers can now be proactive as first responders to overdose scenarios.
Despite these changes, the police chiefs encouraged young people to consider a career in law enforcement as it continues to be a “noble pursuit.”
Grigsby said graduating students serious about a law enforcement career should reach out to police departments, ask questions and begin educating themselves on the realities of such a career. Martin said individuals may be able to earn more money by pursuing a different career, but being an officer is a great way to help the public in a positive manner.
“At the end of the day, when you can’t think of anybody who can help, you call us. Even if it’s to herd the cows back,” Treglia said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.