Even during the current unrest around the nation, Solon police are seeing support from city residents, Police Chief Richard A. Tonelli said last week.
“Even during this unrest, it is not uncommon for us to go somewhere where someone doesn’t thank us, buy us a coffee or express their gratitude in that way,” Chief Tonelli said.
He credits the administration and City Council as well as the residents for that positive relationship. He also said the ongoing commitment to “community policing” is helping during this time.
“I think it benefits both police and the community when you build those relationships on trust and are proactive much more than being reactive when things happen,” he continued. “The community knows you are there for the good and the bad.”
Chief Tonelli said the department, comprised of 47 officers, has a strong foundation in Solon and are dedicated, hardworking professionals who care about their job and the people they serve.
“They have empathy and sympathy for the public, and there is little change even in the face of unrest,” he said.
Chief Tonelli said they are continuing with their normal practices and have not had to make adjustments based on the unrest in other communities nationwide.
“Fortunately, we have not had to make a new policy of how we operate in light of the unrest,” Chief Tonelli added. “We have been doing it right already.”
Solon officers take part in ongoing training and are given the funds to do so, he said, which is key. Officers also train in use of force and incorporate de-escalating situations into that training.
“Training is important, and we may add to it in the future,” Chief Tonelli said.
Officers have always been dedicated to treating people fairly and equitably, he said. But their job is difficult and challenging, Chief Tonelli noted.
“Even in good times, officers have to be on full alert for any kind of danger,” Chief Tonelli said. “It is one of the most unique jobs in the world because we never know what we will encounter.
“Even on a benign call, it could turn ugly at any time,” he said.
Chief Tonelli gave as an example a routine traffic stop that can turn unsettling.
“You may have stopped them for something routine, and they may have perpetrated a crime or have an agenda against a police officer that they want to harm us so we always have to be alert,” he said.
He said since the death of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25, there have been a couple demonstrations in Solon, including a prayer vigil and a parade. Mr. Floyd was in police custody when he died; four Minneapolis police officers have been charged in connection with the case.
“We understand that they [local demonstrators] have constitutional rights to protest and peaceably gather, and we appreciate that,” he said. “That has capitalized on the strength of the community and the police as well.”
But their ultimate job is to always act to protect lives and preserve order and property, he said of the police force.
“We are all in this together,” Mayor Edward H. Kraus said.
In Solon, officers see themselves as part of the community, not separate, the mayor noted.
Community policing is the approach he supports, the mayor added. Reflecting on all that has happened this year, it is extremely important, he said.
It is also important to be mindful that police officers are human beings, Mayor Kraus said.
“My job is not to create more tension for them but less tension and the way we do that is making sure our police officers are part of the community,” he said. “They are part of us and we are a team here.
“We will solve issues as a team and not throw our officers under the bus,” he added. “We wouldn’t do that to citizens.”
Mayor Kraus said he is proud of the Solon department and all the training they take part in.
“When they walk into a situation, they are trained for it, and that is so important,” he said.