The Canfield Police Department was among 51 northeast Ohio police departments recognized at an award luncheon last week for their efforts to make their respective communities safer. Canfield earned the American Automobile Association Silver Award.
The awards are an annual recognition that AAA gives out every fall. AAA East Central safety advisor Lori Cook said it recognizes police departments that work hard within their communities to make them safer for everyone.
"The Silver Award involves the community determining an issue and the police department addresses the problem," Cook said. "The Silver Award reflects that."
The award program begins with a survey that is sent out each August. It is up to each department to fill out the survey. Cook said some don't bother, while others like Canfield have a strong community and educational program that fills the bill. To be eligible for the annual awards, a community must conduct traffic safety promotions and educate the public on safety topics and include that on the survey.
In Canfield, the survey is handled by Sgt. Cris Ruiz. He takes the time to document the various programs the department puts on each year.
"We have done a lot towards the education of our students," he said. "We constantly give presentations at the school regarding pedestrian safety and seat belt safety."
Ruiz said it involves the city as well. As an example, the city is adding sidewalks to help with pedestrian safety.
Another issue that goes toward the survey information is the work the department does with the OVI Task Force. The department takes part in saturation patrols and checkpoints throughout the county to make the roads safer for motorists.
"We document what we have done as the host agency for the OVI Task Force and submit that data as well," Ruiz said.
Once the survey is filled out, it is sent back to the AAA, which then rates the involvement and issues the award. There are several levels of awards that depend on the amount of involvement. It starts with a simple commendation to a bronze, silver, gold, and platinum award. Last year, Canfield Police Department earned a bronze award. This year they moved up to a silver award and were one of 51 northeast and central Ohio departments recognized this year.
"We are proud of all these departments for their achievement and participation in the Community Traffic Safety Program," said Cook. "They went above and beyond the call of duty by organizing projects to make their communities safer places for motorists and residents."
Cook said while the awards banquet is hosted by AAA East Central's office, the program is actually a national one. The award itself comes from the national level and is given out at the regional level.
Cook added that the award is a small recognition compared to what officers in these departments do for society. She said in talking to children and giving them the tools to live a safe and happy life are what is really priceless.
"Officers in these departments have no way to tell how many lives they have touched," Cook said. "And it is far better for our young people to have a positive experience with an officer instead of meeting an officer later in life when they have done something bad."