Macedonia, Northfield Village, fully certified in state police standards

Jeff Saunders
MyTownNEO.com
Macedonia patrolmen Terry Schneider, left, and Matt Newrones stand beside one of the city's cruisers. The department along with the Northfield Village Police Department recently upgraded their certification in state policing standards. They are two of only three law enforcement agencies in Summit County to boast of the achievement.

NORDONIA HILLS — The Macedonia and Northfield Village police departments have both achieved something that only one other department in the county has: Full compliance in their policies with all applicable state policing standards.

China Dodley spokeswoman for the Ohio Collaborative Community-Policing Advisory Board, said the city and village are now fully certified in all of the state’s voluntary policing standards, except Macedonia has a waiver for body-worn cameras. Northfield Village Police Chief John Zolgus said the village’s only waiver is for dispatching since Macedonia handles dispatching for the village under a contract.

Dodley said the only other department in the county that has reached this level is Fairlawn, though Peninsula police are “in process” for full compliance.

Dodley said Northfield earned its certifications on July 30 while Macedonia Police Lt. Vince Yakopovich said the city’s compliance was effective Aug. 3.

Macedonia and Northfield Village now brings the total number of policing agencies in Summit County that have certifications in at least some of the standards up to 23, said Dodley.

Yakopovich, who lead the department’s efforts in reaching compliance, said the policies had been compliant for awhile with state standards.

“We’ll stay complaint,” said Yakopovich. “Our policies were right where they needed to be. It was a matter of submissions.”

Northfield Village Police Chief John Zolgus said the department has also been compliant for some time. It was just a matter of going through the process of getting certified.

“We’re up and running,” he said. “We have been and we’re certified and there’s really nothing more to say about it.”

The standards are an initiative of the Ohio Collaborative, established by former Gov. John Kasich in 2015 following fatal incidents involving Black people and police the year before, including the shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

This came after a 2014 executive order establishing a task force to examine “community-police relations.” That order stated, “it has become apparent that too many people in communities of color feel that the protective shield that law and order is intended to provide is not working for them, and this underlying friction can only be resolved by enhancing the confidence felt by the community in their relationship with law enforcement.”

The Ohio Collaborative, a 12-person panel of law enforcement experts and community leaders from around the state, has been establishing “minimum standards” for law enforcement agencies.

There are eight standards incorporated in four groups: Group 1 sets standards for use of force and agency employee recruitment and hiring; Group 2 includes standards for community engagement, body-worn cameras and telecommunicating — call taking and dispatching; Group 3 includes standards for bias-free policing and investigating employee misconduct; and Group 4, which was created only this year, so far includes a police pursuit standard.

The bias-free policing standard requires collection of data on all self-initiated traffic contacts, along with annual profiling-related training that should include field contacts, traffic stops, search issues, asset seizure and forfeiture, interview techniques, cultural diversity, discrimination, and community support.

The standard also requires an annual administrative review of agency practices, data collected, and citizens’ concerns, which must be available to the public.

Dodley said Sagamore Hills police are certified in Group 1 and are “in process” for Group 2 certification. Summit County Sheriff’s Inspector Bill Holland said in the sheriff’s office, which polices Northfield Center under a contract, is certified in the first three groups.

“We are currently working on the fourth group,” said Holland. “It is being reviewed by our legal team.”

Police Chief David Hayes said in June that the department uses a company called Lexipol to review and update its policies and that it is working on bringing the department into full compliance.

Yakopovich said the body cam waiver is due to the department not currently having the devices. He said discussions for purchasing them have been “back and forth,” but noted cost is a stumbling block.

Body cameras can be expensive, particularly since a server providing data storage for video has to be factored in. When Stow police purchased 40 body-worn cameras and a server in 2015-16, it cost more than $43,000, though the city was able to get grants that paid more than $30,000 of that cost.

“We have in-car cameras and the guys have mics they wear on their belts so everything they do is audio recorded and if they’re in front of the car or behind the car, it’s audio and video recorded anyway,” said Yakopovich.

Zolgus said in June that the two departments had been working on their policies for awhile. Zolgus said Northfield police also uses Lexipol, which incorporates the Ohio Collaborative standards into the some 500 pages of policies and procedures that it developed for the department. Yakopovich said Macedonia has continually reviewed its policies.

The final step for certification is a meeting between the department and state representatives, which was done virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yakopovich said the benefits of the standards is the accountability and improved community relations that they bring.

Go to https://www.ocjs.ohio.gov/ohiocollaborative for more information about the Ohio Collaborative and the standards.

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.