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Published: Monday, 10/19/2009

Owens to form police force

BY MEGHAN
GILBERT-CUNNINGHAM
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Chief John Betori, right, Danny Jones, center, and Luis Munguia sharpen their shooting skills on the range. Chief John Betori, right, Danny Jones, center, and Luis Munguia sharpen their shooting skills on the range.
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Owens Community College is about to get a little safer.

College police officers, complete with firearms and full arrest powers, will soon patrol campus as Owens shifts to a mixed security force.

The campus now has about 30 full-time and part-time security officers, two of whom will be sworn in as police officers during a Nov. 10 ceremony before the Owens trustees.

John Betori, the college's new director of public safety and police chief, is the only sworn police officer.

"The benefit of having your own law enforcement allows for us to respond in a timely fashion and respond with our own service," he said. "It allows us to take ownership."

The two security officers who will soon join him have completed police academy training and have been working as part-time officers elsewhere.

The goal is to increase the police force to five from three by the end of the year, Mr. Betori said.

For now, the trio will provide police presence on the Perrysburg Township campus from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"Our community is really here during the bulk of these hours, so we'll start with that," Mr. Betori said, adding the plan is to have police on duty full time.

The college's department of public safety includes divisions for police, security, and workplace safety.

Adding police puts Owens in step with peer institutions, many with mixed forces, said Brian Paskvan, Owens' vice president for administration.

"We wanted to make sure we too had that next level of response," he said.

The difference is police can make arrests, present cases in court, carry firearms, and more that security personnel cannot do.

If there was a theft in the bookstore, for example, a security officer detained the suspect until township police responded. A campus police officer now would investigate.

Mr. Pavskvan said township police have been great to work with and have a response time of only a few minutes, but if there were officers on campus it could be even faster.

Owens has invested nearly $32,000 in its police force - $22,400 of it for a police cruiser. Mr. Paskvan said the college was planning to buy another security vehicle, but upgraded to the patrol car.

The college also purchased five 40-caliber Glock handguns for $2,000 and three complete uniforms with duty belts, bullet-resistant vests, and badges for $2,500 each.

The all-black uniforms will distinguish the police officers from the security personnel in gray shirts.

Adding police is not a response to an upswing in campus crime, Mr. Paskvan said. In fact, the serious offenses Owens is required to report under federal law show a safe campus. In 2008, there were two robberies and one illegal weapon on the township campus and one drug arrest on the Findlay campus.

"We are very safe, but want the ability to react to any situation," he said.

The main problem at Owens and most other colleges is theft, Mr. Betori said, because it's a crime of opportunity, such as when students leave a backpack on the library table or walk away from their laptop computers.

But like any community, there also are assaults, traffic crashes, and domestic cases, he said.

Although Mr. Betori wants to see the police force at Owens grow, it will be mostly security officers who are tasked with miscellaneous administrative duties.

A number of them also are emergency medical technicians, he said.

"Our focus is to provide that small town policing atmosphere," Mr. Betori said. "And when they need us, we'll be able to help."

Contact Meghan

Gilbert-Cunningham at:

mcunningham@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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