On Tuesday, a suspected car thief escaped custody of the Leetonia police. Albert Bell remains at large as of this writing. He is wanted on charges of a fourth-degree felony for receiving stolen property and third-degree felony escape. He was arrested for having a stolen car - being found sleeping in the vehicle in the Cherry Valley Coke Ovens parking lot. It was reported stolen by the Akron Police.
Bell was taken to the Leetonia police station for processing. While an officer was filing paper work, Bell, who had been secured in the station booking room, somehow slipped out of his handcuffs and ran out of the station. Bell was chased into the woods and escaped.
Of course this was reported through all the media outlets. Albert Bell and his Houdini handcuff trick, though impressive, doesn't rank with John Dillinger and his wooden gun. But an escape is an escape.
We've heard a few crass comments our way regarding the Leetonia Police and its handling of the arrest. Uh huh, the Barney Fife kind. You know, hick cops and all. This is a grand opening for all the insensitive critics of cops to line up in the mockery firing range and take their best shots. Which isn't surprising. There are those, go figure, who seem to live for such moments - to publicly ridicule at the expense of others. Even those who protect and serve. Who hasn't heard all of those worn-out cops and doughnuts jokes?
Granted, this must be causing embarrassment. Was Bell's escape neglect??Hard to believe. Carelessness, maybe??Certainly at least to a degree. This does fall squarely on the cops. And, yes, it could've been worse -nobody got hurt or even killed by this.
Other local departments and police members must be feeling for the red-faced Leetonia Police Department and Chief John Soldano. Perhaps all of us should do likewise. At least to a degree. The escape happened. It shouldn't have but it did.
Our area, whether cities, townships or villages like Leetonia, boasts many skilled and conscientious cops. Same goes for the Columbiana and Mahoning counties sheriff's departments. For every slip - such as the regrettable one that happened Tuesday - local police have hundreds of moments when arrests, serving warrants, helping out community members and defending the law are executed without a stumble. This usually all goes unnoticed. And while this area isn't a big crime-ridden metro there are everyday risks. Cops' lives are on the line on a daily basis. Understand that reality and appreciate all of those who serve including Chief Soldano and members of the Leetonia police force. There's no escaping that they deserve our full respect and support.