Published July 28, 2008
Youngstown wants to be patient with and supportive of its police department. We are cognizant of the enormous risks that go with the job and appreciative of the serious commitment that the brave men and women of the YPD make in choosing to be a part of the force.
As the homicide stats stack up each year and reports of all sorts of nasty incidents are broadcast, we are reminded both how dangerous and serious the jobs and lives of our police officers are and how far we have to go in securing our city.
We are not ignorant of the severe economic and unemployment situations that exacerbate the problem of crime. No reasonable person expects the police to be everywhere at all times, protecting everyone.
The very least we can expect, however, is that city employees perform their jobs honorably and are present and engaged while they are on duty.
Two recent events highlight the disparity between where we are and where we need to be. On June 14, as many as four officers are under investigation for alleged early and unauthorized exits. If borne out by the investigation, these officers showed disrespect to their colleagues and put their fellow officers and their constituents at risk.
On June 19, Detective Sgt. Robert Deichman died after crashing into a tractor-trailer. His blood-alcohol level was at almost twice the legal limit after having reportedly consumed five beers and a shot at the birthday party of a fellow officer. To add to the fatal irony, he wasn't wearing a seat belt.
Deichman was on call and should have been responsible enough to not drink. His colleagues should have supported him in that effort and—should he have failed to remain sober—not allowed him to operate his vehicle.
The other thing I found interesting about both of these articles is this common thread:
a) "Hughes was out of the city Thursday, his secretary said, and he did not return calls from The Vindicator on Friday."
b) "Police Chief Jimmy Hughes could not be reached."
When the tough questions start coming in, that's when the department's highest voice needs to be heard. Otherwise, people will make up their own stories, and they won't be favorable ones.
Everyone knows Youngstown is short on money. A city government employee I spoke with this weekend actually used the term "bankrupt." We understand the tough circumstances of our city and our time. But the fewer resources available to our police officers, the more conscientiously they must perform their duties.