By Nicole Hennessy
Avon isn’t the type of city that brings to mind constant crime, yet each city has need for policing to some extent.
Avon Police Chief Richard Bosley sat down with The Press to talk about policing Avon and the state of law enforcement, in general, at a time where the use of deadly force continues to be questioned by the public, hen, at the same time, mass tragedies seem to be increasing in frequency — situations that depend on fast-acting emergency services.
Q: What are some of the challenges faced by your department because of how quickly Avon is growing?
A: I think the biggest challenge we have, which everyone sees, is traffic, especially this summer with all the ODOT projects that are going on between here and Sheffield. It’s really limited the movement of traffic quite a bit.
Q: Being a suburban department, you guys have a different job than some other departments. What are some things you think you do really well here and some things you’d like to see improved upon?
A: Improved upon, to me, is just getting out into the community more. I think we do a good job of handling our day-to-day call(s). I think we do a decent job of trying to forecast where we’re headed in the scope of city government within the police department. But just always having the officers out in the community…I think that’s why we’re so glad we finally got our citizens’ police academy off the ground. That’s one of the big projects we wanted to do to try to do some more outreach to let the public know what we’re doing and try to get some feedback from them.
Q: What are some other outcomes you’d like to see from the citizens’ police academy?
A: I like the fact, especially in today’s society and culture, it gives (participants) a much better understanding as to what our role in government and what our role in society is, and I think if they understand that, it can go a long way in helping show the transparency of the police department. For government service, we’re probably one of the most questioned, at times, just as far as the way we operate, the way we do things and (the academy) kind of pulls back the veil some.
Q: Avon is considered a safe community, which may lead some people to believe you’re not as necessary to the community as officers in cities like Cleveland. How do you respond to something like that?
A: Crimes can occur anywhere. You look at some of the more serious crimes that have occurred in other communities — they have been in small towns like Avon. unfortunately, if you look at most active shooter situations, they’re not in your larger urban areas, they’re in suburban communities. So, those types of crimes can occur anywhere. We have to be prepared for those. But at the same time, I think, on a day-to-day basis, we don’t respond to as many known violent-type calls as other communities do. But that being said, I’m a firm believer in law enforcement’s local. I think that the way a community has expectations of a police department are different in Avon than they are in Cleveland. They expect a different measured response from us than they may from a larger city that deals with different types of calls. And that plays a lot on the quality of life. We respond to a lot of calls that other cities have given up years ago. We still do lock-outs; our officers are checking as many as 900 houses a month for when people are on vacation. We do a lot of additional services that other communities have long done away with. But I think that goes back to the fact that law enforcement’s local and we want to be responsive to our local community.
Q: Why do you think there is a grey area in police enforcement where people can debate what departments should and shouldn’t be doing?
A: Probably because within our job there is an inherent conflict at times. Law enforcement is and always should be a huge public trust because of the authority that we are given under the constitution. I mean, we have the ability to incarcerate people — not for a long time, that’s the judicial branch. But we have the ability, the power and authority to take away people’s freedom for an amount of time; to use force against a fellow human being; to exercise deadly force if need be. So, our job has a level of built-in conflict within it, especially when you have certain aspects of the population that may not agree with the way the laws are structured (or) the way the laws are written in regards to marijuana, or whether this should be legal or that should be legal, or what authority law enforcement should have. Whenever you have a society as diverse as ours is — especially the last number of years, as fractured ours seems to be on the ideology on which way our country should go — when you have a job that is the government and has those types of powers, it would cause anyone to have some concerns.
Q: There’s been a lot of recent incidents of departments using force and this can be viewed in a negative light. How do you think police departments, in general can go about repairing relationships with the public?
A: I’ve thought about that one quite a lot and it’s difficult for us because whether people believe that the situation in Cleveland or New York or Ferguson were justified or unjustified — whether you believe that or not, it seems like, as a nation, if you’ve agreed with the actions, you wholeheartedly support law enforcement and if you’ve disagreed with the actions, you’ve blanketed every law enforcement officer. The most that we can do goes back to law enforcement being local. We can have more transparency, we can try to do more outreach, but systemically, I don’t know the answer to that because if something happens next week in Nevada, we’re going to be branded with the same iron that law enforcement is on the other side of the country. And I guess that’s just part of a global media system.