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The changing face of law enforcement

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting different aspects of law, punishment, and corrections in Columbiana County. Abruzzino was elected county prosecutor in November.

Upon entering office in early January, it became evident that the face of law enforcement in Columbiana County was one of change.

A new sheriff, DTF commander, prosecutor, and the addition of new staff to each office assured that new ideas would appear. Sure enough, that has been the case. But after taking the opportunity to traverse the county and meet with law enforcement leaders of nearly every department, I am happy to report that there are more good ideas than bad –and that leaders have the best interest of the county in mind.

I learned that to be successful, we must be mindful of two critical components of modern law enforcement. The first is technology. Whether it is Sundance, Matrix, OHLEG, CourtView, or Pioneer, each department, court, and office must deal with the ever-changing nature of technology and the tools we use to get the job done. Each of these software systems, to name just a few play an integral part in taking a criminal case from crime to punishment.

Where paper files and hand-written charges were creatures of the not -too- distant past, we are now squarely in a revolution that favors the world of purely electronic data. With that change comes licensing fees, equipment upgrades, and cloud storage. Modernizing offices and operations throughout the county will take time, and assuredly money, but the benefits outweigh the burden.

Where possible, the county would benefit in combining resources and leveraging joint-purchasing power. Uniformity will also prove valuable and where an office or department may struggle to afford new technology, efficiency will demand that we come together to seek grants and other cost-sharing measures. To be pennywise and pound foolish at this critical point of investment is ill advised. A county-level committee on technology and law enforcement could help.

Second is the issue of manpower. With very few exceptions, our departments are struggling to hire and retain talented, young people. Fewer and fewer of our sons and daughters are choosing the profession of law enforcement. But is this surprising? As a nation, we have taken such a turn that we no longer cherish and value our law enforcement officers to the true degree they resoundingly deserve. Couple that with low starting wages and the prospect of long, unusual hours, and it is no surprise our local departments are struggling to fill positions. Simply put, a hard look at how Ohio trains and employs officers must be done or soon the levee will break.

We are past the time of complacency on this issue, and our police chiefs will tell you the same. Meeting with our state legislators is something that should happen sooner rather than later. I hope to help lead that charge. With dedication and effort, we can overcome the obstacles in front of us and make tomorrow a brighter day for Columbiana County.

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