Sheriff wants to buy drone to aid in searches

  By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn is hoping to add an eye in the sky to help in searches in the county. The sheriff’s budget requests for 2017, presented to the Wood County Commissioners on Tuesday, included a drone with thermo camera. Wasylyshyn said there were 10 times just this past summer when a drone would have been useful to the sheriff’s office. The drone would be useful in helping to search for missing children, suspects hiding in cornfields, or seniors with dementia who wander off, he said. The equipment could even help when livestock escapes, he added. The drone would cost $13,580, and a thermal nightvision monocular would cost $3,833. The infrared camera would make the drone useful in night searches. The training of staff to operate the drone is included in that amount. Wasylyshyn said the drone would pay for itself since it would be less expensive than sending groups of officers out on searches. The sheriff said he is hopeful the department can share the equipment with neighboring law enforcement in need of help with searches. The biggest ticket item on the sheriff’s budget request was the expansion of the booking and medical areas of the county jail. The expansion has been on the list for a couple years, and was ranked top on his list for next year. The estimated cost is $4.8 million. Also on the list were seven new Ford Explorers for $189,000. The sheriff’s office previously used Chevy Impalas, but those are no longer being built for law enforcement use and the greater expense of  Chevy Tahoes could not be justified, Wasylyshyn said. Also requested were more body cameras for officers, and more cameras in the jail to eliminate any blindspots in the facility. The sheriff also asked for $10,000 for the installation of new doorway from the body scanner room to the booking area. The body scanner, which is new this year, has so far identified three incoming inmates with drugs hidden in body cavities. No new personnel were in the budget request. Following is a list of the items requested: $4,867,056 for booking area expansion. $5,500 for architecture fees for the booking expansion. $189,000 for seven new Ford Explorer Pursuit SUVs for $27,000 each, replacing high mileage Chevy…

BG Schools to arm doors with ‘Boots’ to keep out intruders

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A brutal attack on Rob Couturier’s daughter led the Michigan man to invent a safety system being used in schools around the nation. That system, called the “Boot,” will soon be installed on 344 doors in Bowling Green City Schools. Couturier’s daughter, a petite college freshman, was attacked and almost raped. That was just over six years ago, and he still chokes as he talks about it. “I still remember her face,” Couturier said to the school board Tuesday evening. “She turned to look at me and couldn’t see me. Her face was beat to a pulp.” Couturier knew the perpetrator and located the man shortly after the attack. Couturier tried to break down the door, dislocating his shoulder in the process. He then kicked his way through drywall to get the attacker. He saw the man barricading the door with his boots wedged up against the door. That gave the father an idea. He created the “Boot,” a rectangular-shaped plate of quarter-inch thick industrial steel. With two steel pegs, the plate can withstand 16,000 pounds of pressure and keep doors closed to intruders. But the idea stopped there, with Couturier continuing his job as a school custodian, facilities employee and coach. A couple years later, after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Couturier’s daughter called her dad about his invention. “It would have saved every one of those children,” she said to him. “I was so mad, I was only thinking of my daughter,” and not about how his invention could help others, Couturier said. So he resigned his job, sold his summer home, and started working with law enforcement and other security experts on fine-tuning his invention. His mission became keeping kids safe in the event of an intruder. His business, called The Lockdown Co., started making the “Boots” by hand, and has since installed safety equipment in more than 100 public schools and 18 private schools. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci recently saw Couturier make a presentation on the safety equipment, and immediately asked the inventor to walk the local school buildings with him. In addition to arming each door with the “Boot,” Couturier said the rooms need to be labeled more clearly to aid law enforcement when they arrive on the…

Nuisance parties on the upswing on East Side

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In his suit and tie, Gordon Burns looked like he wanted to be anywhere else on Thursday evening. But instead, as part of his deal with the city prosecutor, he sat in the center of neighbors he had offended. He apologized to the group – people at least twice his age – for his loud party. Burns, a BGSU student, said he wasn’t aware he was causing distress to his neighbors. “From here on out, I’ll be more aware of my neighbors,” he said to the group that listened quietly. Burns, who rents a home on South Summit Street, avoided paying a $100 nuisance party fine by working six hours of community services and agreeing to stand up in front of the East Side Neighborhood Association and confess his crime. Rose Hess, head of the East Side group, told Burns that his neighbors would hold him to his statement. “Gordon, we are your neighbors,” Hess said in a motherly tone. “We look forward to a better rest of the year.” Then she gave the student another opportunity to prove his new-found self. She suggested that Burns join others in the Common Good organization and pick up litter in the neighborhood on some Saturdays. If the police blotter is any indication, the East Side neighbors may be hearing a lot of student apologies this school year. So far this year, from mid-August to Oct. 2, there have been 16 nuisance party complaints filed on the East Side of the city. That compares to 11 and 12 for the previous two years during the same time period. One resident in the area of Clough and South Summit streets said the students seemed “unusually rowdy” this year. Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick concurred. “I would agree with that. We’re out there enforcing it, trying to keep peace in the neighborhoods.” “I would encourage you to call if you have problems with your neighbors,” Hetrick told the residents. A resident of Manville said the problem there is the “roving drunks” coming home in the early morning hours, yelling and banging on her door. Hess encouraged citizens to not just report problems to the city police, but also with the BGSU Dean of Students. The university code of conduct extends into…

Police officials address issues of force, race & more during “Real Cops” panel

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The police in Bowling Green, either city or campus, don’t have to resort to using physical force very often. Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick said that in 90,000 interactions, officers on the BG force have used force 52 times, and BGSU Police Chief Monica Moll said her department’s experience was similar. Rodney Fleming, the managing attorney at Student Legal Services, said that if citizens looked at the statistics, they’d see how little physical force is used. Capt. Mike Campbell, who will be interim chief when Moll leaves BGSU at the end of the month, said that in looking at police conflicts that have been in the news, he sees faulty tactics in how the incidents were approached. More emphasis should be put on de-escalating a situation, and better communication, he said. They were part of the “It’s Just Us: Real Talk with Real Cops,” held Friday at Bowling Green State University, and sponsored by Not In Our Town. No matter how little force is used, all incidents are reported and looked at. “Even if it was a legal use of force,” Moll said, “maybe we could have used less.” Hetrick said each instance is looked at by more than one supervisor, including himself. “Nothing is going to be swept under the rug.” And, if citizens feel they have been unfairly treated, each department has a formal complaint process. If someone doesn’t trust the police to follow through, they can complain to other entities, Fleming said – city officials, his office, or Not In Our Town. Hetrick said those complaints will be taken seriously. “As police chief I want to know that’s going on.” The interactions between police and citizens are often tinged with distrust. Moll talked about the importance of following officers’ instructions. Citizens may know they are not a threat but the officer doesn’t. “There’s a lot of anxiety on both sides,” she said. “What I’m seeing is you have folks who have traditionally adversarial relationships with police and are going to be automatically nervous when police approach, and when police approach they may interpret that as something else that’s wrong.” Often tensions ease over the course of a stop, she said. Ana Brown of resident life, who moderated the discussion, noted that “for a lot of us who…

BGSU officials investigating racist graffiti

University officials are investigating an incident in which a racial slur was painted on the spirit rock near Kreischer Quad on the Boling Green State University campus sometime on Oct. 12. According to a statement from BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey, university staff quickly removed the offensive graffiti, but some members of the university community did see it. “BGSU embraces a culture of diversity and inclusion,” Mazey said in the statement. “All across campus we work hard to uphold the core values of the University including ‘respect for one another.’ This type of hate speech will not be tolerated at BGSU.” The Office of the Dean of Students with support from university police are looking into the incident, and any student found to be involved will be subject to discipline through the university’s Code of Student Conduct. Anyone was has any information about this incident, or is aware of any acts of discrimination or racism are urged to contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 419-372-2843. Also, a Bias Incident Report can be completed and submitted online. “We will not allow this incident to divide our community,” Mazey stated. She concluded by encouraging members of the university community to participate in the reaffirmation celebration of the Not In Our Town initiative on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. in the Falcon’s Nest.

State police chiefs spotlight BGSU department’s outreach to community

From OHIO ASSOCIATION FOR CHIEFS OF POLICE Connecting with the community on a deeper level with community policing programs is a difficult challenge for many local law enforcement agencies, but the Bowling Green State University (BGSU) Police Department faces an especially unique challenge – their constituency is always changing. Chief Monica Moll was recently interviewed while over 19,800 students were just beginning classes for the 2016-2017 school year. As Chief Moll pointed out, “it is a continuous effort to reconnect with the students.” Of the over 6,300 students living on campus, almost half of them are new to the BGSU community and they bring their own perceptions of police with them — good or bad. How does the BGSU Police Department seek to connect with students? Through continuous outreach efforts that focus on those groups that may be most likely to have experienced discrimination or have a distrust of police officers. BGSU has embraced and been very successful in their outreach efforts through the program “Not in Our Town.” “Not in Our Town” is a national program launched in 1995 with the mission “to guide, support and inspire people and communities to work together to stop hate and build safe, inclusive environments for all.” Four years ago Bowling Green was struggling with how to confront acts of racism and hatred on campus and in the community. City and university leaders joined together and adopted the “Notin Our Town” program. However, the initiative is not merely a one-size fits all template – each community develops its own program recognizing that real change and success will only take root on a local level. The effort took off in Bowling Green. More than 12 community organizations and over 50,000 individual pledges were behind the effort. In June 2016, Bowling Green was recognized by Not in Our Town with a National Award for enhancing the quality of life in the community and on campus. Chief Monica Moll is quick to point out that the “Not in Our Town” initiative is a “joint effort requiring collaboration between the community, the University, the City of Bowling Green’s Police Division, and the BGSU Police Department”. To support the movement on campus, the BGSU Police Department is active in sponsoring community forums, connecting with minority communities, participating in “Coffee with a Cop” events,…

“Women of Wood County would be safer with Babel-Smith as Sheriff” -Janet Parks

In response to questions relative to Donald Trump’s 2005 comments about assaulting women by kissing them without their permission and grabbing their p…..s, current Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn stated that those comments had “not changed his feelings” about the candidate, thus suggesting that Trump still has his support (BG Independent News, Oct. 9, 2016). Wasylyshyn characterized Trump’s remarks as something Trump had said “20 (sic) years ago” and implied that they were not relevant today. I strongly disagree. Sexual assault is always relevant and should be especially so to a law enforcement officer. Entrusting women’s safety to someone who is willing to publicly “blow off” Trump’s vile comments would be unconscionable. Ruth Babel-Smith, a candidate for Sheriff, has stated to me that she takes Trump’s comments very seriously. She understands that sexual violence is a problem in our culture. She believes that it is the role of law enforcement to protect women against sexual assault and to prosecute those who commit it. I believe that the women of Wood County would be safer with Babel-Smith in the office of Sheriff and that the perpetrators of sexual assault would be more likely to be brought to justice. I will cast my vote for her, and I encourage others who are concerned about sexual violence to follow suit. Janet Parks Bowling Green

BG police investigating criminal damaging reports

On October 5, 2016, at approximately 11:08 AM the Bowling Green Police Division received a report of the front window of 882 Sandridge Rd being shot out with a BB gun overnight. On October 10, 2016, at approximately 1:13 PM the Bowling Green Police Division received a report of several vehicles being damaged at 540 S. Maple St. by a BB gun. The damage occurred between 2 PM on October 8, 2016 and 8 AM on October 10, 2016. On October 11, 2016, at approximately 8:23 AM the Bowling Green Police Division received the report of a loaded .357 caliber pistol as described by two complaining witnesses as being located in the bushes at 1034 Fairview. Upon arrival it appeared to the responding officer to be a real handgun; however upon closer inspection it was discovered that it was a Crossman BB gun. Anyone having any information related to these incidents is encouraged to contact the Bowling Green Police Division at (419) 352-1131, or Wood County CrimeStoppers at 1-800-54-CRIME.  

‘Real Talk with Real Cops’ for BG community

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick remembers well the two times he came close to shooting suspects. One was a BGSU student with an airsoft gun. The other, a man wielding a samurai sword. In both cases, the situations were resolved without any shots being fired. According to Hetrick, most police officers don’t take lethal force lightly. “Ninety-nine percent of the time we are doing very routine things,” he said. “It’s scary “when a call comes in about someone with a gun. Two officers on the city police department have had to shoot to kill. “It’s devastating to them,” the chief said. But around the country, the last few weeks again saw black men being killed by police. And while the Bowling Green city and university police chiefs are very open about answering community questions, a special evening is being set up to allow for a community conversation with police. The event, called “It’s Just Us: Real Talk with Real Cops,” will be sponsored by Not In Our Town BG on Oct. 14, at 6 p.m., in the BGSU Student Union theater, Room 206. “The community, the whole county is starved for this kind of conversation,” said Rev. Gary Saunders, of NIOT. The event will be an opportunity to talk with city and campus police about their policies and procedures. After the shooting deaths in Tulsa and Charlotte, the local Not In Our Town organization released a statement. “Not In Our Town BG stands with all who grieve following the deaths in Tulsa and Charlotte last week.  We also witness to the deep feelings of anger, frustration and fear that these events have generated among people of color and others here in Bowling Green and on campuses and in communities around the country.” The statement continued, “The tragedies of last week underscore the value of the cooperation and the partnership of the two police departments with NIOT-BG since our origin.  But they also show that we in Bowling Green must continue with the hard work required to reject prejudice and violence in our town, and to become a community in which all people are not just included but are respected and safe.” In an effort to keep communication open between the community and local law enforcement, Not…

Jail inmate in hospital after beating in visitation area

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   An inmate at the Wood County jail is in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo after being beaten by another inmate last week in the visitation area of the jail. Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said Sunday afternoon that the two inmates were in the visitation area when one punched the other in the back of the head. “We got the victim medical attention immediately and are pressing felony charges against the inmate who beat him,” Wasylyshyn said. Operations Captain Terry James said this morning that Jesse Perez, 36, Toledo, and Franklin Socha, 26, Berea, were having a disagreement Thursday in the visitation area of the jail, when Perez allegedly punched Socha in the back of the head. James said Perez, who was in the jail for domestic violence, punched Socha “several” times. Socha, who was in the jail for felonious assault, was visiting with his mother at the time. Socha was taken to Wood County Hospital, then transferred to St. Vincent in Toledo. The hospital would not release his condition this morning. No jail staff was in the visitation area when the fight occurred, James said. That is not unusual, according to James, who said two deputies were monitoring the area from the room next door. “They saw it and called for backup,” James said. The staff was in the visitation room “very quickly,” James said after watching video of the incident. “I was pleased with how fast we were in there.” Felony assault charges against Perez will be presented to the grand jury on Wednesday. Almost all inmates at the Wood County Justice Center are permitted visitation. “All inmates, unless they are in discipline, are entitled to visitation,” Wasylyshyn said. The sheriff is hoping to change to video communication in the future, so the inmates stay in their jail areas, and their visitors communicate with them similar to Skype.  

NIOT plans ‘Real Talk with Real Cops’ at BGSU

(As submitted by Not In Our Town BG) Not In Our Town BG stands with all who grieve following the deaths in Tulsa and Charlotte last week.  We also witness to the deep feelings of anger, frustration and fear that these events have generated among people of color and others here in Bowling Green and on campuses and in communities around the country. One of our NIOT cornerstones remains our commitment both to truth-telling and to improving the relations of our BG and BGSU police with the Bowling Green community at large.  We continue to support “coffee with cops” events, and we highlight the coming community/police conversation called “It’s Just Us:  Real Talk with Real Cops.”  This will take place Friday Oct. 14 in the theater (room 206) of BGSU’s Bowen Thompson Student Union at 6 p.m.  There is no overstating the importance of open and honest communication with and by our officers, particularly involving those who have reason to be fearful due to current and past events. The tragedies of last week underscore the value of the cooperation and the partnership of the two police departments with NIOT-BG since our origin.  But they also show that we in Bowling Green must continue with the hard work required to reject prejudice and violence in our town, and to become a community in which all people are not just included but are respected and safe.  

Policing expert: Releasing shooting videos is problematic

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In the wake of fatal police shootings in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, citizens are again demanding that police release the videos of the incidents. In Charlotte, where demonstrations have been violent at times, protestors have chanted “release the tapes” of the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. (Police Saturday decided make available two videos from police cameras.) Phil Stinson, Bowling Green State University professor in criminal justice and leading expert on policing, said he understands those calls. “I can fully understand from a point of public policy why these videos need to get out for transparency.” However, “if I was a prosecutor I would not want these videos out before trial, certainly not before the investigation was completed,” he said.  “It really does hamper the investigations when the videos get out quickly.” Not releasing the videos “suggests that they’re not necessarily hiding something, but they are pursuing the investigation.” What troubles Stinson is the some of the videos “show law enforcement officers acting in ways not consistent with their training.” Often, he said, “the narrative provided by the officers on the scene and those involved in the shooting are inconsistent with the video evidence. Either they’re lying or their recollections are flawed, which is not surprising given people are not very good at remembering things.” Stinson said it’s probably a combination of those two factors, false reports and mistaken perceptions. “An officer may believe there was an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or deadly force, but they could have been mistaken.” Whether the shooting is justified comes down to whether that fear “is objectively reasonable,” whether an officer acting according to their training would perceive that threat. Stinson would like to see the use of independent prosecutors for these cases. Anyone from the state attorney general’s officer down to the local prosecutor has some level of conflict of interest because of their dealings with police officers. “It just takes away the public concern of bias and lack of impartiality,” Stinson said. “These are ugly cases and I don’t think they are going to stop,” he said. He’s been studying police shootings for 12 years, and the numbers are consistent, about 1,000 people are shot and killed by on-duty police officers every year. “It’s business as usual.”…

BG shop owner catches shoplifter with help from strangers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   This crook didn’t stand a chance. He picked the wrong shop owner to steal from – a marathon runner. He picked the wrong location – next to the police station. And he ran the wrong direction – almost getting hit by the city prosecutor’s car before being nabbed by two strangers. Amy Craft Ahrens has chased down shoplifters before – four times, actually. But on Tuesday, the For Keeps shop owner got a little extra help from bystanders. In the end, two good Samaritans tackled the suspected thief, and Craft Ahrens returned to her shop with the stolen purple Vera Bradley bag. Police were quickly on the scene, since the For Keeps shop shares an alley with the police station. Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick was sitting in his office with Major Justin White when they heard shouting in the alley. They looked out the window. “We saw Amy running, chasing after someone,” Hetrick said. He couldn’t tell exactly what she was yelling, but “you could tell it was loud and angry.” It all started around noon, when Craft Ahrens was on the phone with a vendor in her shop at 144 S. Main St. She saw a man come in the front door of the store. He walked along the aisle with Vera Bradley items, then headed to the back door. As he walked out the door, “I could see something purple in his hand.” She recognized it as a $108 Vera Bradley bag. “I said, ‘I’ve got to go chase a shoplifter’ and threw the phone down,” Craft Ahrens said. If she would have been thinking clearly, Craft Ahrens said she would have just approached the man quietly. “But I yelled ‘stop,’ and immediately he started running.” “I was yelling, ‘Stop thief,’ like right out of a movie. Who does that?” The man – Randy Arndt – ran out into traffic on Wooster Street, and was almost hit by a car driven by City Prosecutor Matt Reger, who then pulled over in the alley to help. A couple was walking on Wooster Street, and heard Craft Ahrens yelling. The pedestrian, Chris Burden, basically “hip-checked him and knocked him to the ground,” Hetrick said. Meanwhile, another car on Wooster Street pulled into the alley, and…

Sheriff pleads case for more jail holding cells

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s not uncommon for Wood County inmates to be doubled up in the booking holding cells, or even placed in an office where the furniture has been replaced with a cot. Though far from ideal, the current booking area of the Wood County jail just does not have room for all the traffic, especially all the special needs created by drug use or mental health conditions. “It’s a ticking time bomb,” Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said Tuesday morning to the county commissioners. “It’s not a safe way to do it, but we don’t have any options.” But the sheriff hopes that will change. Wasylyshyn made his pitch to the commissioners again for expansion of the jail’s booking and medical areas. He made the same request about five years ago, but at that time the commissioners approved the part of the expansion allowing more beds at the facility, but not the booking area. At that point, the booking expansion was estimated at around $5 million. When the Wood County jail was built in 1989, it was intended to have a larger inmate booking area. But efforts to trim costs resulted in the booking area being smaller than planned. Wasylyshyn said the expansion can no longer be put on hold. The current booking area has five cells, intended to hold one person each. The request is that the area be expanded to six individual cells for men, five individual cells for women, two group cells for men, and one group cell for women. The group holding cells could accommodate 10 each. Since the jail first opened in 1990, the needs have changed. Now the facility is booking more people with drug addictions and people feeling suicidal. So the holding cells are being used for these people, who must be kept under watch. One person who was deemed suicidal, but did not qualify for care at a psychotic facility, was kept in a holding cell for six months, where he could be checked on every 10 minutes. “Everyone knows we have a problem with drugs everywhere,” said Ronda Gibson, jail administrator. “It makes us not have holding cells for what is actually intended,” she said. Gibson estimated on any given day there are four to five active detox cases…

Monica Moll leaves BGSU to become top cop at Ohio State

Monica Moll, the director of public safety at Bowling Green State University,will leave her post at the end of October to take the position of director of public safety at Ohio State University. Moll has been at BGSU for six years. Capt. Mike Campbell will serve as interim chief during the search process. In her notice to campus of Moll’s departure, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer Sheri Stoll wrote: “In Monica’s six years with BGSU, she has made a deep and lasting impact. Under her leadership, the BGSU Police Department has gained recognition as an outstanding law enforcement organization. Chief Moll, along with her team, has worked to increase the department’s functional capabilities by greatly improving training and professional development. She has created a more rigorous selection process for hiring new officers, formed a public safety advisory committee to better engage with the campus community, and worked tirelessly to enhance campus relationships between her officers, our students and the community.” A farewell reception is planned for Monday, Oct. 24, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. the Community Room (202B) at the Bowen-Thompson Student Union.