BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Community policing has been around since the 1990s, but to Whitehouse Police Chief Mark McDonough, it’s more than a buzzword – it’s a mindset.
That’s the reason McDonough was selected for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) Michael J. Kelly Excellence and Innovation in Policing Award, said Deputy Chief Allan Baer, who nominated McDonough. The award will be given out in May during the OACP annual meeting, but it’s only been presented to 12 individuals in the past 19 years, and all of those have been from larger communities.
“It’s a pretty prestigious award,” Baer said, explaining that Ohio has 900 agencies that can nominate a chief.
Whitehouse does many community policing programs, such as birthday parades, Safety Town, the Citizen Police Academy, house watch and a senior contact program, but it’s the everyday philosophy of working for the residents that makes a difference, Baer said.
“Chief McDonough believes that citizens are our true bosses. We must police the citizens in a manner that they expect to be policed. That attitude permeates down through the organization, and the officers are a direct conduit to the citizens,” Baer said.
As an example, Baer points out that officer Andy Kasack carries a baseball glove in his car to get out and engage in play with kids he sees out playing catch. Officer Matt Johnson was captured on a doorbell camera tossing a football with a young man in a front yard during the COVID-19 shutdown. Officers regularly chat with employees and customers at the local gas stations, and any citizen can walk into the police department and meet with the chief.
McDonough also attends events on his own time to interact with residents – such as during the White-house 5K last weekend.
“Because of the chief, it’s in our officers’ mindset to be good to the citizens and treat them with respect and professionalism,” Baer said. “I’ve worked in numerous departments. That belief doesn’t always filter down from the top, but here it does.”
McDonough credits the knowledge he gained while working in the Bowling Green Police Division under chiefs Galen Ash, Thomas Votava, Gary Spencer and Brad Conner – as well as numerous lieutenants and sergeants – to their leadership in demonstrating that officers police for the people.
“We take that a step further by saying ‘we police with you.’ The police and the community need each other to ensure we work together to address crime and community issues. This is what I instruct and demand of myself and our officers, and it shows in the community we serve,” he said.
McDonough was surprised when he learned of the award, which he said is an honor for himself personally as well as for the department and residents. He credits the administration, mayor and council for backing up his philosophy of community policework.