Community Oriented Policing – A Year in Review

Community Oriented Policing has long been a practice of the Bowling Green Police Division.  The impacts of 2020, with its unprecedented challenges that were presented throughout our nation and our state, were felt here locally within the City of Bowling Green.  As the nation responded to increased focus on concerns such as mental health, racial discrimination, and police use of force, the Bowling Green Police Division was not exempt from these challenges.  The BGPD took a proactive stance and modified operations to respond to the new and constantly evolving conditions – all while responding to typical calls for service.  These separate and unique challenges presented this community and agency tests that no one could see coming.  However, as a certified agency by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), the BGPD is continually reflecting on operations, tactics, techniques, and training on important issues such as de-escalation techniques, racial profiling, implicit bias, and responding to calls involving mental health concerns.

In 2020, the BGPD completed a law enforcement reaccreditation assessment from CALEA. This voluntary assessment is intended to promote transparency and community trust, measure effectiveness, assist in policy decisions, and allow for continuous review of our agency.  Along with this, the Division is certified by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board as part of the state’s efforts to strengthen community and police relations.  These certifications and assessments require officers to be trained in a multitude of different areas and disciplines including topics such as use of force, recruiting, and vehicle pursuits.  With all that said, however, there was work to be done.

The BGPD, its leadership, and the Mayor’s Office saw the evolving landscape of policing in the 21st century as an opportunity to continue to improve the excellent service already being provided.  This was an opportunity to improve operations, increase training, build upon existing relationships within the community and make new ones.  The BGPD remains steadfast in our commitment to address each and every one of the concerns brought forward from all members of the community.  All of this was a good way to be reminded of the core mission of the BGPD – to improve the quality of life experienced in the City’s neighborhoods, to involve the community in decisions that directly affect them and to provide the necessary services identified by the community as important.

So, what has been done so far?

In unison with the Bowling Green City Council and the Mayor’s Office, the Police Division established and identified a liaison to communities of color.  Sergeant Adam Skaff volunteered to serve in this role and since doing so, has attended meetings with Welcome BG and Not In Our Town, met with members of B.R.A.V.E. (Black Rights Activism, Visibility, Equity), spoken with various leaders from Bowling Green State University (BGSU) Athletics, met with the Director of Multi-Cultural Affairs at BGSU, participated in a panel discussion about race, and has been assigned to a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force at BGSU.  All of this with the goal to listen, learn, and educate – to hear concerns from members of the community, potentially find ways to address them when needed, and to better educate the Bowling Green community about the BGPD and how our police force is different than most.

Chief Tony Hetrick served as a Welcome BG task force member and at their request distributed a Building Trust with Immigrant Communities resource to every officer at the Police Division as well as providing the document to various agencies in Wood County.

Officers were required to attend and complete De-escalation training and Racial Profiling training along with the continuous and on-going annual Use of Force trainings above and beyond the typical training requirements.  These training opportunities are invaluable and help to ensure that our officers are working in accordance with current laws and court rulings as well as the expected standard of our community.

Another important aspect of policing is mental health awareness.  Officers have been assigned and have worked diligently with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Unison to look at ways to improve our response to people in mental health crisis situations.  The BGPD continues to see increasing numbers of incidents that involve mental health crisis situations.

The BGPD will surely build on and capitalize from all the hard work that took place in 2020.  The BGPD looks forward to continuing to improve and add to the relationships with various community groups.  The Division will also continue to provide various outreach programs and maintain transparency to build trust with all community members.  As part of this initiative, the BGPD is in the process of purchasing body-worn cameras for all officers.  These will work together with in-cruiser video and audio camera systems, which have been in place and utilized for over 20 years. The Division will continue to seek out training for officers on various topics and disciplines from Use of Force, De-Escalation, Prevention of Biased-Based Policing, Cultural Awareness and Competency, and Bias and Discrimination.  Another and equally important issue with modern day policing is attracting and retaining quality police officers that reflect the community being served.  The BGPD will look for new and innovative ways to attract qualified and diverse candidates by participating in a nationwide testing and screening process.  This will help broaden recruitment activities beyond the immediate area and attract candidates from across the country.

The Bowling Green Police Division and each of its officers look forward to a new year.  This agency wants to take the experiences from 2020 and find ways to make the BGPD even better.  The Division is committed to being accountable, proactive in seeking out solutions, transparent in the service being provided, and professional in all that is done.

Writer Bio:

Sergeant Adam Skaff

Adam was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio.  He graduated from the University of Toledo with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.  Adam was hired by the Bowling Green Police Division in 2002 and attended the Ohio State Highway Patrol Basic Police Officer Academy.  He was assigned as a road patrol officer working various shifts, before being assigned to the Special Investigations Unit and then worked for 2 years as a Detective.  In January 2019, he was promoted to Sergeant and has worked the midnight shift as a patrol supervisor since then.