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Ohio's top public safety, homeland security leaders meet in Canton
By Staff
Released/Published: Feb 5, 2008

Healy, Guzmán discuss wide range of issues during three-hour meeting

CANTON, Ohio – Senior directors from eight state-level public safety agencies were in City Council chambers Monday afternoon to discuss ways in which the state department charged with protecting Ohioans could provide assistance and funding support to local safety forces in Canton. 

The group of officials, which included Department of Public Safety Director Henry Guzmán (gooz-MAHN), Ohio Homeland Security Director William Vedra (VEE-druh) and Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Richard Collins, met with Healy and his senior staff at the Mayor's request to discuss ways in which the state department could collaborate with Canton Police, Fire, and EMS services.

“We came out of today's discussions with many great ideas,” Healy said, shortly after leaving the meeting.  “I am confident that this strong partnership will have an immediate, positive impact on the quality of emergency services for Canton residents.”

Guzmán, who serves as a top-level adviser in Strickland's Cabinet, echoed Healy's sentiments.  “We are always looking for ways that we can share ideas and improve communication between local agencies and the state department,” he said.  “Governor Strickland has made it clear to us that we need to be collaborating with local communities to address issues that face our state as a whole.  Today's meeting is the first step in making sure our partnership with the City of Canton is a strong one.”

In addition to some of the state's top law enforcement officials, also in attendance at the meeting were top administrators from the state's Emergency Management Agency (EMA), the Ohio Investigative Unit, and the Office of Criminal Justice Services, which administers many grant programs to local law enforcement agencies.

One of those programs, the Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program, administered more than $9.5 million in federal grant dollars throughout the state in 2007 for pilot projects or other initiatives that would have otherwise been unaffordable for local governments.  Healy said that he plans to work with Police Chief Dean McKimm and Fire Chief Stephen Rich to secure some of these funds so that “we aren't asking taxpayers or other departments to make up the difference when we need more money.”

“The state has a much larger pocketbook than the City of Canton when it comes to planning and sustaining long-term public safety initiatives,” Healy said.  “We need to find ways to tap into those resources if we hope to be successful solving some of the problems that face us here locally.”

Guzmán said that Canton has had a positive history with the department in past administrations, and  noted that he is especially looking forward to working with the new administration because of Healy's prior support of law enforcement and public safety forces during his time as the area's state lawmaker.

“Mayor Healy has proven himself to be a staunch advocate of Ohio's public safety community,” Guzmán said.  “I see many good things coming out of our partnership in the years to come.”

Canton Safety Director Tom Nesbitt said that he was interested to hear about a program that is currently being implemented at the state level through the department's community outreach office.  That program, which focuses on improving what the department has identified as “cultural competence,” seeks to take diversity training several steps further than many agencies have in the past.

“This is not just a diversity class,” said Tina O' Grady, the department's Community Affairs Director.  “We want to make real changes within the system so we can be in tune with the needs of our diverse population.  This doesn't happen after an hour-long class in a conference room - this happens with planned, long-term training and education efforts by our public safety leaders across the state.”

Nesbitt said that parts of the program mirror what he hopes to do within Canton's public safety forces, and that he looks forward to working with the state agency to identify practices that have been successful across the state.

“Some of their ideas about how to improve the relationship between our public safety forces and the residents they serve are right in line with what I hope to do here in Canton,” Nesbitt said.  “When our safety forces have the trust of our residents, their jobs get ten times easier.  Programs like the ones we have learned about today are going to be critical to build that trust.”

Healy noted that the state officials came at his request, as he had discussed the issue with Guzmán shortly before being elected Mayor in last November's election.  He also said he also hopes to build similar relationships with other state departments in the coming months, adding that “Canton will now be much higher on the priority list than it may have been in the past.”

Contact Information: Adam Herman - (330) 438-4304

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