Review of BGPD shows very low use of force, few citizen complaints

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

There were enough chairs set up in the Simpson building Tuesday to seat every citizen who had filed a complaint against the Bowling Green Police Dvision in the past three years. And there would be room for more.

None of them showed up when a visiting accreditation team from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc.  set up shop to receive citizens’ comments.

City Councilman Bruce Jeffers was there. He said the police force is “positively engaged with the community.”

In a time when there are so many reports of clashes between police and citizens with violence “going in both directions,” he is “amazed” how the BG officers “deal with large number of partying students … without losing control or using excessive force.”

Planning Director Heather Sayler was there as a resident to praise the department, especially the D.A.R.E. program.

Fire Chief Tom Sanderson was there to lend his support to Chief Tony Hetrick and the officers. He and his crews see first-hand BG police officers’ ability to de-escalate tense situations, which allows EMS crews and firefighters to feel safe doing their jobs.

Lt. Colonel (retired) Robert Johnson, Illinois State Patrol, (left) and Capt. Brad Fraser, Shelby, North Carolina, Police Department

Lt. Colonel (retired) Robert Johnson, Illinois State Patrol, (left) and Capt. Brad Fraser, Shelby, North Carolina, Police Department

That camaraderie between the fire and police divisions is not always the case, said Robert Johnson, a retired Illinois State Patrol lieutenant colonel. Also on the CALEA team was Capt. Brad Fraser, from Shelby, North Carolina. Lt. Daniel Mancuso serves as the BGPD’s accreditation manager.

That wasn’t the only surprising thing they found in reviewing the BG police’s performance from 2013 through 2015. Over that period, Johnson said, Bowling Green officers never used their firearms, nor did they use their batons. He called that “pretty surprising… given the climate the police operate in.”

“This is far better than I expect to see,” Johnson said. “I’m more used to seeing force used more frequently and use of greater force.”

In that three-year period, BG police made 8,000 arrests, and used force in 71 of those.

Not a single lawsuit related to use of force was filed against the department.

In the same period, the police issued 26,000 traffic citations and warnings. They made 89,000 calls for service. And they received 54 citizen complaints.

The accreditation process is voluntary. CALEA is the only national and international agency. Johnson said 5-10 percent of law enforcement agencies opt to seek CALEA accreditation. Among those is the Bowling Green State University department.

Bowling Green was originally accredited in 1993. The department has been reaccredited at three-year intervals since then. This is the seventh time the department has gone through the process. Johnson said the role of the visiting assessment team is to make sure the department continues to adhere to the standards set by CALEA.

“We haven’t found anything hiding in the corners that we think needs to be rectified,” Johnson said Tuesday night.

The final decision is up to the commission, and he wasn’t sure when it would be announced.

During a follow up interview Wednesday, he added, “I will tell you frankly there’s certainly nothing in the report that would raise any concern in the department that they would be reaccredited.”

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