Friday, March 16, 2001

Cops find that, here or abroad, cops are cops

Blue Ash Police meet Ilmenau Polizei

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BLUE ASH — A contingent of safety officials, on a visit to Blue Ash's sister city, Ilmenau, in the former East Germany, expected their counterparts to be a stoic, militaristic lot.

[photo] Blue Ash Police Sgt. Jim Schaffer (left), Safety Director Bruce Henry (center) and Fire Chief Jim Fehr show mementos from their trip to Ilmenau, Germany last month.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        Members of the German state police, who protect Ilmenau, expected Blue Ash police to arrive telling tales of a violent Western society with the TV cops of Miami Vice playing real-life roles and parents afraid to send their youngsters to out-of-control schools.

        Both notions proved wrong.

        “They were just super-friendly service-oriented cops,” said Tom McGrath, a firearms specialist and commander of the regional Drug Abuse Reduction Task Force. “Here we were, cops from two different countries, two different cultures, and I guess we're about the same everywhere. What a lasting experience.”

        “We were able to dispel some myths,” said Bruce Henry, the Blue Ash deputy city manager and safety director who led the 12-member group from the city's police and fire departments on a week's visit last month.

        “Remember, they are only 10 years from being under a communist regime. There were a lot of questions about crime, firefighting, lots of misconceptions. They really had an unusual opinion,” he said.

        The exchange of public-safety officials came at the request of Gerd-Michael Seeber, Ilmenau's oberbuergermeister, equivalent to a U.S. mayor. A delegation of 20 of Ilmenau's government leaders, business owners and educators visited Blue Ash last June, when the sister-city partnership was created.

[photo] Bruce Henry, Blue Ash safety director, greets a German officer in front of a military bunker in Ilmenau, Germany, Blue Ash's sister city.
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        Ilmenau is a city of 31,793, founded in the 13th century in a mountain valley on the Ilm River.

        Police Sgt. Jim Schaffer, a specialist in electronics and surveillance, said German police techniques are not significantly different from American methods. All Ilmenau police are state officers. A local patrol division is complemented by detectives based in Gotha, the state headquarters an hour away, he said.

        Blue Ash Fire Chief Jim Fehr was amazed that Ilmenau's fire department operates with two full-time fire officers and 245 volunteers out of five stations. The state reimburses employers of volunteer firefighters when they are called to duty.

        Sgt. Schaffer returned with one statistic he hopes the United States may some day match: “None of their police can remember the last time an officer was assaulted,” he said.

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