'For some, it's like a badge of honor to shoot or harm a police officer,' says Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre.
The Oregon man accused of shooting at a police officer is under 'round-the-clock' surveillance at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, where he is receiving treatment for a gunshot wound from a different officer.
Jeff Belew, 23, fired at least four times at Oregon police Sgt. Jeff Martin, striking the officer's vehicle, police said. Sergeant Martin was the first to arrive at the Piccadilly East Apartments, 2750 Pickle Rd., just after 5 a.m. Sunday when responding to a report of two brothers fighting, according to police.
Officer Don Sekulski arrived as backup, firing three shots at Mr. Belew, striking him once in the upper right torso area. Authorities said charges are pending against Mr. Belew, and Officer Sekulski has been placed on administrative leave.
Hospital officials said they did not have a patient by Mr. Belew's name.
The shooting is a recent example of what authorities say is an increase in violence toward officers.
"I think there's a certain segment of society that has become so brazen that they have no respect for authority, no respect for police officers, and going to jail because they inflicted harm on a police officer means nothing to them," Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said. "For some, it's like a badge of honor to shoot or harm a police officer."
Since the start of the new year, 57 officers have been killed -- five in Ohio, which has the third-most officer fatalities. At this time last year, 51 officers had been killed, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
So far this year, 26 officers have died by gunfire, a 44 percent increase from April 11, 2010.
Sandusky police Officer Andrew Dunn, 30, was killed in the line of duty on March 19 during a traffic stop. Kevin Randleman, 50, is charged in the death.
On Sunday, a man pulled a gun on a University of Toledo police officer who was helping a woman who was locked out of her car. While helping the woman, two men began arguing in the Omni Bar and Grille parking lot, 2567 W. Bancroft St., just after midnight.
When Charles Polinski, 35, of Toledo, allegedly held a gun inches from another man's head, the UT officer drew his gun, yelling for Mr. Polinski to drop the weapon. The man then turned the gun on the officer and tried to flee the area, authorities said. The officer stopped and arrested the suspect, who is being held at the Lucas County jail on charges of carrying a concealed weapon, aggravated menacing, obstructing official business, and disorderly conduct while intoxicated. His bond is set at $25,000.
"Society as a whole doesn't give the respect to police officers that they once did," Chief Navarre said.
The Toledo Police Department will graduate a new class of officers today, the first in four years, which suggests that, even though officers face violence, recruits are not deterred.
"I think it's a good job, it's a challenging job, and there are a lot of positive rewards that come from the job," Chief Navarre said. "It's certainly not a job you'd call monotonous -- you never know what to expect in an eight-hour shift if you're a street officer, and when people sign up to become policemen, they should know it's a dangerous job and there are times when they may get hurt.
"I think we are still fortunate that, for the most part, we don't have a problem recruiting. We do still have a lot of people who do want to be police officers in this city," the chief said.
Increased threat has called for new weapons and different training. More than a decade ago, police started using "reality-based training" to simulate real-life scenarios.
Chief Navarre said, in his career, he has seen police-issued service weapons change at least four times to better protect officers. Bullet-proof vests are also replaced every few years.
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: email@example.com or 419-724-6054.
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