The Geauga County Board of Commissioners offered their full support to local law enforcement during their Tuesday meeting when conversations shifted to the Black Lives Matter protests and riots as well as calls to defund the police across the country.
“In light of everything going on and all the nonsense being said out there, from my position here in Geauga County, I’d like to just put it out there that we support everything that our Sheriff’s Department does, and we’ll continue to find every resource available to continue what you’re doing,” Commissioner Timothy Lennon said after Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand arrived at the meeting.
“Making sure that you guys have the best resources available to do your job, whether that be training or equipment or just the ability to get the top notch, quality recruits in here, we’re going to continue to support that,” he said.
Sheriff Hildenbrand said he appreciated the county’s support, adding that the department is looking to purchase riot gear after assisting with protests in Cuyahoga and Ashtabula counties in previous weeks.
“We want our guys to be protected,” he said. “This thing’s not over with, and I fear it’s going to rear its head again after the trial.”
On May 25, George Perry Floyd, a black man from Minneapolis, Minnesota died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, sparking mass protests and riots across the country in support of Black Lives Matter.
Last week, prosecutors raised Mr. Chauvin’s charges to second-degree murder, and his next scheduled court date is June 29 where he is to enter his plea.
Officials agreed that Mr. Chauvin’s force against Mr. Floyd was wrong and that they believed it was murder, but defunding police, they said, would not be the proper response.
“I don’t know what state we’re in anymore when I hear that type of thought. It’s not even a thought because they didn’t think it through,” Mr. Lennon said of cities defunding their police. “To start pulling on that string, you might as well forget everything else. I mean, that’s the backbone of society.”
Director Steven Oluic of the Geauga County Department of Water Resources said the rioting at protests is not justified.
Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri agreed, noting that the riots are no longer about Mr. Floyd’s death, but rather people are just taking the opportunity to vandalize property.
Mr. Spidalieri served almost 30 years in law enforcement and is the founder of the nonprofit Blue Line Unlimited, which provides law enforcement families and officers with benefits, training, education and equipment.
He brought up the destruction of historical and veterans monuments in other states due to the riots, noting a monument in Virginia that faced vandalism.
“That should be a shootable offense,” he said of the rioters’ destruction of historical monuments. “I mean, here’s the line, and you crossed. It’s that simple.”
Mr. Spidalieri said he would support the sheriff’s department in acquiring gear in preparation for riots should they occur in Geauga County, to which Mr. Lennon agreed.
“I would say as fast as you can get numbers of whatever the order is, we’ll get that rolling so that we can get helmets and protective gear in,” Mr. Spidalieri said, adding that he would also support outfitting the agency with chemical munitions and masks.
“At the end of the day, this is nothing to play with, and I know we can look out for the best interests of our first responders out there,” he said.