Incident showed safety forces prepared
COPLEY — When a slew of 9-1-1 calls came in to the Copley Police Department’s dispatch center reporting a man shooting in the Goodenough Avenue/Schocalog Road neighborhood, the community’s safety forces responded.
Less than 10 minutes later, shooter Michael Hance was dead after being shot by Officer Ben Campbell.
Looking back at the events of last Aug. 7, Copley Police Chief Michael Mier said his department’s quick response was due to the training they have received to handle incidents like this.
“The staff is very well-trained, and we have been very fortunate to hire highly qualified individuals for these jobs,” Mier said. “We knew these folks could handle the situation and they did rise to the occasion.”
The department also was helped by several other law enforcement entities that responded and helped to investigate the situation, which was not like anything that had ever happened in Copley before, Mier said.
“Even though we’re not a busy community in terms of serious crime issues, there are a lot of incidents that take place, and our officers know what they are doing, and our dispatchers know what they are doing,” Mier said. “When something big like this happens, they just naturally fall back on their training and experience, and they know what to do and they get it done. It’s just a bigger magnitude.”
Mier said the event last year is what police call an active shooter incident, and it’s something that his department has been prepared to deal with.
“We train on that every year,” he said, adding that Bath and Fairlawn’s safety forces often train with the department. “We train in the schools because the schools present a unique challenge because of the configuration of a school building. That training has been tremendous.”
But he credits his officers with using their adaptive skills to handle the Copley incident, since it had some unique characteristics.
“The thing with this incident that’s really interesting, and that shows not only how good our officers are but all the agencies were, is the fact that this active shooter was a little bit different,” Mier said. “They are usually in a contained area, like a theater, school or a small area, but our area was over 12 acres. There were 25 homes within the area, and this guy was moving. That was a unique challenge.”
State and national law enforcement organizations agreed that Copley’s forces performed at their best that day. Campbell received the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) TOP COPS 2012 award, for which he was honored in Washington, D.C., in May and had the chance to meet with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Also, dispatchers Michael Emerson and Sara Justice, of the Copley-Norton Joint Dispatch Center, earned the Ohio 2011 Double Gold Award, presented by the Ohio Chapters of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APC) and National Emergency Number Association (NENA).
“I just can’t say how proud I am of our safety services,” said Copley Trustee Helen Humphrys. “I’m very proud of all of our township employees.”
Mier is quick to give thanks to the community for their help the day of the shooting and in the days that followed.
“It’s safe to say that this incident was not indicative of the Copley community, but the support of all the folks that came together is indicative of the community,” he said. “It’s a tremendous community to live in and work.”
He added the incident did change the community.
“We enjoy a low crime rate and, in particular, a low violent crime rate, but they now recognize that something like this can happen anywhere,” he said. “Many of them were deeply affected, even the ones that didn’t know any of the victims. They were shocked.”
The chief said he has not seen an increase in the number of calls to police regarding neighborhood problems or suspicious people in the community as a result of the incident.
“Folks are so supportive of the police that they hate to call,” Mier said. “If something happens, they will call right away. But if they see someone on the street that just doesn’t seem right, they don’t call. Please, just call us, and let us come out. We’d rather be bothered.”
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