LIMA — With the law enforcement community under fire nationally amid a backdrop of racial injustice, the Lima Noon Optimist Club on Wednesday honored all public servants who are charged with keeping their communities safe.
The club’s annual Respect For Law program, which traditionally singles out a member of the community who has stepped forward to help a police agency or program, this year focused on all men and women in blue who do their jobs under the umbrella of the Lima lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Optimist Club President Denise Van Dyne said part of the group’s mission is to “provide hope and a positive vision in our community” and to inspire respect for law enforcement. “As a club we decided, in light of our current situation, that we wanted to recognized all law enforcement personnel, so we chose the Fraternal Order of Police as our award recipient this year.”
Darrell Ball, president of the F.O.P. Lima Lodge 21, spoke to Optimist members about trends in policing and the current political and sociological climate in which police offers are asked to perform their duties. Chief Kevin Martin of the Lima Police Department and Major Todd Moeller of the Allen County Sheriff’s Office were also on hand, joined by representatives of their respective departments, to answer questions.
A 30-year veteran of policing, Ball touched on several trends revealed in a recent in-depth study on police actions that was undertaken at Yale University. Ball said the study revealed that while “members of the African American community are more apt to be involved in confrontations with police” than are whites, the use of deadly force by police is for the most part color blind, with the percentage of whites and Blacks subjected to deadly force found to be virtually even.
Despite those figures, Ball believes police officers are targeted by the communities they serve more now than ever before.
“Since Sept. 1 there have been 11 different shootings nationwide that specifically targeted police officers,” he said.
The F.O.P. president also asked those who are calling for police departments to be defunded — with funding instead earmarked for social programs and agencies — to consider the consequences of such actions. “The reality is that the budgets for police departments have nothing to do with those other agencies. But defunding the police would impact what officers on the street do every day.”
Martin said police departments need more funding, not less, to perform their duties effectively.
“As it is now, we have to prioritize and balance what we do when there are already things we need more funding for,” the chief said. “We need to look at better ways of generating funds for our police departments.”
Martin said he has met with numerous community and neighborhood groups to discuss police relations in recent months and will continue to do so.