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by Peter Huston

One of the best reasons for living in a small town is the opportunity to get to know the people that make it all work. This spring Steve Riddle, the Village of Put-in-Bay Police Chief, hired a detective from the Cleveland area to join our force. His experience and mentoring abilities made him a great choice for helping to train the many first time police hires we rely on during the summer months. The goal is to emphasize community policing.

“Community policing is a philosophy of full service personalized policing, where the same officer patrols and works in the same area on a permanent basis, working in a proactive partnership with citizens to identify and solve problems.” According to Ferreia Bertus author of “The Use and Effectiveness of Community Policing in a Democracy”

Community policing creates partnerships between law enforcement agency and other organizations, community members, nonprofit service providers like the chamber of commerce, private businesses and the media. Our island’s response has been positive, as both officers and community members see the effectiveness in reducing crime and raising the sense of security in the community.

But, it is a tall task to train a force and keep the wheels turning. The first time I had the opportunity to meet Detective Ian McInnes he was getting ready for our first big event of the summer, PyrateFest IX. I was surprised to see that he had learned about our great PyrateFest and created some PyrateFest shirts for the police to wear as a fundraiser.

This early show of community involvement immediately got my attention and interest. I sought out the shirt and contributed to their fundraiser. On PyrateFest weekend, our young police force had made a direct connect to the community and the visitors coming to the island. Ian McInnes thoughtful and persistent presence all summer long earned him a spot in community collective.

Flash forward to the last week before Labor Day and the 9th Annual Put-in-Bay Sports Car Reunion. One of the most cherished parts of the weeks activities for the racers and attendees is the laps around the island. As far as we know there are no road races in America anymore. The one here on South Bass was one of the last. Very few, perhaps none in the country still have the actual course in tact.

Put-in-Bay’s old course, that started and finished on Delaware Ave. is truly an iconic destination for a generation of car lovers that has grown every year. This year we had 160 cars register for the island event. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of extra cars and people on the road. The PIB Police department worked with the organizers to create the best experience possible for the residents, volunteers and car owners.

Chief Riddle selected Detective McInnes to be the managing officer and lead car in the parade around the island. With two-dozen volunteers at all the key intersections and turns the parade got underway at 6pm Monday night. As I stood watching from the front of the old Crescent Inn I was excited to see such a great turnout by the community as well. What a great moment.

Later Tuesday night at the driver’s awards dinner held at Joes Bar, Detective McInnes was called up to the stage (porch) and honored with a standing ovation from the audience for his help and involvement. But what got my attention was a moment that happened later that week.

It seems that Detective McInnes is an Iraq War Veteran and 11 years ago he had been at the USO gathering in Iraq when Toby Keith played. He had been lucky enough to get his picture taken with Toby. He must have wondered out loud about getting a chance to get that picture signed. With a little help from some community members, that actually happened! That’s the essence of community policing at its finest.

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