(Juliana Colant | WOUB)

New MOU creates mutual aid between local police forces

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Athens City Councilmembers received a draft agreement of a new MOU between the Athens Sherriff’s Office and Athens Police Department at last night’s Athens City Council Committee meeting.

The agreement connects the city of Athens and the Athens Sheriff’s Office and allows for the city’s police officers to participate in the sheriff’s special response and tactics unit.

Chief Tom Pyle said this idea began in the spring when the sheriff and his tactical team commander asked  the Athens Police Department to increase the participating numbers in their special response team.

A previous MOU allowed five of the Athens officers to participate on the special response team. The sheriff recommended increasing that number to seven.

By having seven officers, Pyle said it would increase the ability to have five officers turn up when there is a call out. When the call goes out for officers, there is no guarantee that all will be able to show up.

Athens Police Department’s scheduling and staffing come first over participating in special response team callouts, Pyle said. When a high-risk situation occurs, Athens Police Department officers are expected to remain at their post when on duty and officers not on duty are sent to the scene. Chief Pyle said he does not anticipate a dramatic labor increase or stress on scheduling.

The officers reporting to the special response team receive extra monthly training. The team may respond to high-risk situations, including drug busts, overwatch for events, and search warrants.

These mutual aid agreements are helpful, said Councilmember and Chair of City and Safety Services Committee, Micah McCarrey.

“It’s mutually beneficial in that we have more trained officers who are able to respond to highly skilled, or incidents that require a high level of skill,” he said. “This kind of additional monthly training opportunity for a select number of our officers will give them skills that they could use in those serious situations.”

Service-Safety Director Andrew Stone also sees this training as crucial to creating the most effective and efficient special response team.

“When you need to use it (the special response team), both that organization, that unit, as well as the training the individuals get, you want to make sure that its good,” he said.

Additionally, in the MOU, the Athens Police Department, in discussion with Stone,  asked the Sherriff’s Office to provide overwatch in the future when needed during major events, such as Halloween.

Athens Police Department is located on 11 N College St. (Juliana Colant | WOUB)

When overwatch was needed in the past, the county charged the city an hourly rate. Now in the future, they will receive overwatch assistance at no cost.

“We see our partnerships with our fellow law enforcement agencies in the area as crucial for being able to dissuade crime regardless of where it takes place,” Stone said. “So ultimately, if our officers in the city respond outside of the city from time to time, hopefully that would be less of an instance of crime being able to move across into the city.”

The next stage for this request is to go through all three council readings before it can be officially passed.