A feature of the car show was a vehicle touted as the 'world's fastest police car.'
By SEAN BARRON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- The parking lot of Mr. Anthony's banquet center Sunday was a sea of metallic red, blue and green vehicles, many with their hoods raised.
The cars were the main attraction at Sunday's Cops 'n' Rodders show. The event was part of the four-day 71st annual conference of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio Inc.
Several hundred rooms in five motels near the FOP event were filled by police officers from all over the state as well as their families. This was the first time the state FOP had its annual conference in the Mahoning Valley.
Bill Biasella Jr.'s bright red 1967 Camaro was one of about 87 vintage vehicles entered in the four-hour car show, sponsored by the FOP and Summit Racing Equipment of Tallmadge, Ohio.
Biasella, a former Akron police officer and Cops 'n' Rodders' president, said the proceeds from the show will go to Critical Incident Response Services.
CIRS provides counseling and related services to police officers, firefighters and other safety forces who have experienced a traumatic event. CIRS, for example, made 25 visits to New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Biasella noted.
"If they need CIRS, CIRS goes," he said.
People took their time on the hot and humid afternoon perusing the parking lot at Mr. Anthony's, 7440 South Ave., looking at classic vehicles that included a 1966 Dodge Coronet, a bright blue 1966 Ford F-100 pickup truck, a 1939 Dodge and a cream-colored 1950 Mustang. A disc jockey entertained the crowd by spinning oldies by The Eagles, Elvis, Junior Walker and the All-Stars and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others.
Another eye-catching vehicle was a converted 1991 Chevrolet Caprice with a mounted engine that had been used as a police cruiser. On the 725-horsepower Caprice were lights and sirens, a police badge and an emblem for Drug Awareness and Resistance Education.
David Smith, William Reynolds and George Haydu, all auxiliary officers for the Tallmadge Police Department, take the pro street drag car to a variety of shows, community events and parades, including 28 last year, to raise awareness of D.A.R.E. programs, Reynolds said. The vehicle, painted a marbleized purple and teal, is equipped to accelerate to 130 mph in just over 10 seconds.
"In 1994, it was considered the world's fastest police car," Reynolds said.
Thirty plaques were on hand to be given to the top 30 cars. Trophies also were available for vehicles selected by various businesses, Biasella said.
Also part of Sunday's festivities was a Texas-style barbecue that featured several local and state politicians. Around 700 tickets for the outdoor steak dinner were sold, said Glenn Kountz, a Mahoning County deputy sheriff who's also president of FOP Lodge 141 and 2nd District trustee for the state FOP.
The event brought between 600 and 700 officers from all over the state, as well as their families, Kountz added.
"It will be a boon to our local economy. Naturally it will feed into the economy," Kountz said.
Local police departments represented at the conference were the Mahoning County Sheriff's Department as well as police departments from Youngstown, Boardman, Austintown, Struthers, Lake Milton and Liberty, said Detective Sgt. Patty Garcar of the Youngstown Police Department.
Chuck Canterbury, the national FOP president, estimated that the 90-year-old organization has 322,000 members nationwide. Around 29,000 are in Ohio, said Canterbury of Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The FOP's mission and main goal has remained the same throughout its history, Canterbury said. That mission is to promote and protect various benefits for law enforcement officers and to encourage social and charitable activities among them, he noted.
State Rep. John Boccieri said he's grateful the Mahoning Valley was recognized to host this year's conference. This area has a lot to offer, and issues like crime and drugs still need to be addressed, he said, adding that the conference will help bring positive recognition to the area, Boccieri said.
"I'd like to see more of these things happen in the Mahoning Valley," he said.
Rep. Ted Strickland of Lisbon, D-32nd, said he empathizes with the stress and inherent difficulties police officers face regularly. The unpredictable nature of police work increases the stress level of the job, Strickland said, adding that he worked with mentally ill inmates for 10 years as a consulting psychologist at the Southern Ohio Correctional Institution in Lucasville.
"I'm aware of the difficult people [police and prison guards] deal with day after day," he said. Strickland added that the FOP event will benefit the Valley's image and economy.