MANSFIELD, Ohio — Councilman Don Bryant gave area college students a tour through the Mansfield Police Department Thursday.
“Our department is accredited and one of the best. We have an amazing team working to keep us safe,” Bryant said before the tour began. “We’re not a Ferguson. We’re not a Cleveland. We’re Mansfield.”
Bryant said the purpose of the tour was to show students the importance of public safety and the effort and dedication that goes on behind the scenes to keep Mansfield safe.
The tour attracted around 10 students from OSU-M and North Central State College interested in criminal justice and public safety. Most of them said they were interested in forensics. One individual, Derek Tharp, 17, said he was in the Junior Explorer’s Program.
“This is probably the most young people I’ve seen here,” Bryant said. “Most, unfortunately, are downstairs in the courts.”
Students began the tour by walking through the city’s council chambers.
From there, Officer Ron Barnes and Sergeant Jon Ahles led them downstairs to the police department, where they met Mansfield Chief of Police Ken Coontz and Captain Shari Roberts. The group then went down the hall to the detective section.
“We handle cases that are a little deeper than the ones our officers handle on a daily basis,” explained Detective Matt Loughman. “We deal with around 700 to 800 cases per year. Right now, I have a little over a hundred I’m working on.”
Coontz expanded on that thought.
“These guys deal with cases that would make you cry,” he said. “They do a good job.”
From there, the students were introduced to 911 call center Operations Supervisor Jerry Botdorf, who is also currently campaigning for Richland County Sheriff. The call center, said Botdorf, received over 135,000 calls in 2015.
Students were impressed with the department’s SWAT vehicle, which Assistant Chief Keith Porch said cost the department nearly $350,000.
“We can speak to the reliability of this though,” Porch said.
He referenced the Randall Road standoff — an incident which lasted over 24 hours and ended with one man dead after a shootout between police and David Parker.
“This thing received rounds from a .308. That’s a high powered rifle that would would rip through officers’ (bullet-proof) vests.”
Students sat in the vehicle, named the BEAR CAT, and tried to spot bullet damage toward the front.
Coontz then led them to the department’s gym, which used to be part of the city’s jail.
“Our officers need to be in top shape because they get in fights on the streets with people resisting them. They’re in here often,” Coontz said.
The students were then led to the department’s shooting range — a 50-foot deep room laden with bullet damage.
“As you can see, this room is definitely used. We shoot a lot,” Coontz said.
He noted it’s required for the officers to remain sharp, both by state mandates and by the department’s expectations.
DNA Analyst Dawn Fryback captured the students’ attention with her presentation of the finger print laboratory and the crime laboratory. She showed the students confiscated drugs and other paraphernalia, which the department holds until a case is closed — usually five to six years.
“After a while, we take all of the evidence and have a burn,” she said.
The majority of the drugs being held? Heroin.
“As you can see, we keep a record of how much we’ve kept by year since 2000. Back then we had around 50 cases, now were up to around 400,” Fryback said to raised eyebrows.
Students ended their tour by peeking at the department’s seized weapons — they are handled the same way seized drugs are handled. And disposed of in the same way.