Saturday, March 09, 2002

Crazy week gives cops action, OT




By Janice Morse, jmorse@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONROE — Two weeks ago, the police pursuit of an escaped buffalo was the big excitement in this small city near Interstate 75.

[photo] A call about a possible hostage situation puts the Middletown Special Response Team and the Trenton-Monroe Combined Tactical Unit into action during a busy week.
(Michael Snyder photos)
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        But this week, Monroe's 16-member police force hit warp speed and became the Thin Blue Blur.

        “Everything seemed to happen at once,” said Ernest Howard, a 40-year police veteran who says this week was the department's busiest in his 12 years as the city's police chief. “There are a lot of officers whose fannies are really dragging.”

        In a three-day span, Monroe officers helped in a major raid of an adult nudie club, enlisted an armored vehicle in a tense “standoff,” testified in a dismemberment-murder case, and helped special agents from Wyoming — the state, not the Cincinnati suburb — seize alleged Internet kiddie porn evidence from a brick, ranch-style home in a quiet old neighborhood.

        “I've had at least 15 hours of overtime this week myself, and I don't get paid for OT,” the 66-year-old chief said. “But I won't ask my people to do what I won't do myself.”

[photo] Monroe Detective Mike Staples, left, and Patrolman Kenneth Parson remove confiscated computer equipment as evidence in a kiddie porn case.
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        Because of the eventful week and a number of officer illnesses, several officers had already racked up overtime in the double digits by Friday.

        Patrolman Brett Kahny logged more than 20 hours of OT in the three days he worked between Monday and Friday.

        Friday morning, his thighs were still sore from Wednesday's standoff, which required him to duck for cover in a crouching position for about 90 minutes. It ended peacefully when the supposed hostage returned home, safe after some miscommunication with a worried friend who had called police.

        “Then, I had a semi-tractor trailer turned over and had to go deal with that at 10:15 at night,” he said.

        “So, it's not just all of these things. Your other additional duties have to be taken care of, too. And with fatigue setting in, you can't let yourself get punchy or irritable. You still have to try to deal with it all in a professional manner.”

A BIG WEEK
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    • Tuesday: Monroe police and Warren County authorities raid Bristol's Show Club and Revue, leading to 18 arrests on drug, alcohol and prostitution charges.
    • Wednesday: Monroe and Trenton's joint tactical unit, backed by an armored vehicle, participate in a 90-minute standoff in the Rochester Hills Mobile Home Park, Lemon Township. They later learned that a caller's fears of a hostage situation were unfounded.
    • Thursday: Monroe police join Ohio state and Wyoming state authorities in searching a Monroe home for Internet child pornography; in a separate case, after Monroe officers testified, Ronald A. Spence Jr., 36, is convicted of murder and gross abuse of a corpse in the April 2000 slaying and dismemberment of his wife, Shawny, 26.
        The busy week doesn't mean the city has suddenly morphed into Monroe Vice, officials say, noting all events except Wednesday's standoff were police-initiated.

        Tuesday's raid of Bristol's Show Club and Revue had been scheduled well in advance, Chief Howard said. And Robert R. Kotzbacher, special agent for the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, acknowledged that the Internet sex case could have been handled at some other time.

        “They could have just told us they were having a busy week, and put us off, but they didn't do that,” said the agent, who came from Cheyenne for the raid. “The cooperation we have received from them has been great.”

        Residents aren't thrilled about their city, which crosses over from Butler County into Warren just west of I-75, grabbing these types of headlines. But they add they mean police are doing their jobs.

        “It's good to see the initiative,” said Dr. Kathryn Bednarczuk-Youtsler of Monroe Chiropractic Center Inc., near the police station.

        One of her employees, Karen Helter, said: “It has been a crazy week. ... We don't like to see these things happening in our small town.”

        Miss Helter, who turns 63 today and has lived in Monroe for 32 years, remembers when Monroe was a “very, very small village” of maybe a couple thousand residents. The 2000 Census put population at 7,300, and it's estimated at some 8,000 residents now and growing.

        “I love this town — and any time they get any of the bad out, I'm glad,” she said. “Our police department, our fire department, our whole city government is excellent. They stay on top of things and get things done.”

        City Manager Donald W. Whitman said that Monroe might have an image as a “sleepy little community,” but he noted that the potential for major police events increases because of the large numbers of people who pass through it every day. Recent traffic counts showed 35,000 people passing Main Street on Ohio 63 each day, he said.

        Mr. Whitman said he went along on the Bristol's raid and that was “impressive.”

        A couple days later, Mr. Whitman, whose office overlooks the police parking area, said: “What really blew my mind was when I looked out the window and saw the Dodge Durango with license plates from the state of Wyoming. I had heard they were coming from Wyoming, down by Cincinnati.”

        So when he saw the out-of-state vehicle, “I knew we were really into something then.”

        Mr. Whitman said he's proud of the job the city's officers have done this week, showing versatility beyond their daily duties and events such as rounding up a farmer's escaped buffalo two weeks ago.

        “It shows that, under Chief Howard's leadership, they're well-trained professionals that can deal with a multitude of different things, from your basic traffic stops, to computer crimes, to murders,” he said. “They've handled everything that's been thrown at them.”

       



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