PERRYSBURG — With a younger force on the horizon, Police Chief Patrick Jones continues with department changes that started with new radios. In a presentation sponsored by the Perrysburg League of Women Voters last month at Way Public Library, Jones spoke on the future of the Perrysburg Police Division.
“We just implemented our new radio system last week. So we are fully online with the Lucas County system now,” Jones said. “A few weeks ago we were testing the radios. We had the radios programmed to make sure we had the channels on them, and we actually had officers out with radios. That first pursuit we had portable radios in the cars with officers and so we had access to the pursuit channel.”
The division is now using the new 800 megahertz portable radios with mobile radios installed in the police vehicles.
Two weeks in a row there were pursuits that entered the city. Because of the new radios, the division was able to know before the official call and they were able to prepare for the situation and helped to make response time faster, Jones said.
The purchase of new radios are an example of the increased level of technology that the police will be using, but the changes take time to implement. The radio purchase was initiated during the time when now State Rep. Haraz Ghanbari, R-Perrysburg, was the safety committee chairman on city council. He was replaced by Mark Weber after being appointed to the House seat March 27.
Jones said that the police division budget for 2019 was $5.8 million and 85% of that goes to personnel. The remaining budget goes to electronic data processing, police equipment, training, building maintenance and repairs, telephones, radios and other communication-related expenses.
“If there’s a better way, a safer way, a more efficient way, I’m open to it,” Jones said. “The radio transition has been smooth.”
The next big equipment change is transitioning to new service weapons, which also started this month. Body cameras are also on the horizon.
Within the next year Jones hopes to begin a transition to more fuel-efficient hybrid Ford Explorers.
“We do a lot of idling,” he said. “Yet, it will still do 140 mph.”
The division has 35 sworn officers and 13 civilian employees; eight employees are eligible for retirement in 2020, four of whom are the sergeants.
“So what you are going to see in Perrysburg is a much younger department,” Jones said.
Training is very important to Jones and given the retirements that will be coming he is focused on continuing to prepare officers for future leadership roles. However, there will also be enhanced training for communications officers. He is also hoping to get updates to the computer aided dispatch system and records management system.
Jones has been teaching courses on criminal justice and forensics at Bowling Green State University for five years.
When he opened up the floor to questions, Debra Gorman asked about the diversity of the division recruitment methods.
There are currently three female officers and one African American officer.
“Predominantly we get white males who apply,” Jones said. “In general the applicant pool is low.”
He said that research has shown that this is a trend nationwide. He remembers how 15 years ago the school gymnasium was packed with recruits and now there might be 35-40 people taking the test. It’s become a job that has recently been receiving “a lot of scrutiny.”
It’s also a job that is not a standard work day, Jones said. It does include holidays and weekends. That also impacts the total number of applicants.
“We’re trying to find ways to get creative with our recruitment,” he said.
He explained that with their vetting process the division now includes home visits, interviews with significant others, as well as ex-spouses and neighbors, as well as personnel files.
For the current officers, he is adding training to work with members of the public who might have a mental health issue or autism and there has been crisis intervention team training.
On the officer and dispatcher’s sides, he is also promoting mental health support.
“For so long the mental health of officers has been neglected,” Jones said.
Beyond the exposure to violence and car accidents, the modern world also requires some officers to comb through computer videos, images and messages.
“It messes with your head,” Jones said. “Officers are very reluctant to talk with mental health professionals. There’s a stigma attached to it.”
He is developing peer support programs with officers who have specialized training, based on the Indianapolis Police Department model.
The event was attended by more than 20, including Ghanbari, Perrysburg Council members Becky Williams and Mark Weber and council member-elect Jan Materni.