An expanded mutual aid agreement approved by Groveport City Council will make it easier for the Groveport Police Department to help other communities and receive help in return.
Police Chief Ralph Portier said legislation passed by council and supported by Mayor Lance Westcamp allows the department "to assist other agencies and have other agencies respond to us, without calling for them and causing a delay in service or protection of the officers."
Portier said the agreements are primarily with Madison Township and Obetz, but also involve the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. They came about as part of an effort by the Franklin County Police Chiefs Association and the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office, he said.
These organizations hope to empower the various Franklin County based agencies to be proactive about law enforcement, even when they are outside their home jurisdictions.
"We already had agreements with the other agencies that if they need help, they could call us and we'd respond if we're available, but now, if you are in another jurisdiction like Obetz or Madison Township and you know someone needs help, you can just respond. You don't have to be requested," Portier said.
For example, he said, in the past, if his officers were out of jurisdiction and witnessed a potential drunk driver, they were not empowered to stop that vehicle without receiving approval first, which created a frustrating and unsafe situation.
"Now we'll call it in on the radio and make our response be immediate," Portier said. "All of this is a give-and-take, helping each other out at no cost to any of the participating agencies ... the three police chiefs in our area work well together, as do the officers of each agency."
Groveport, Madison Township and Obetz are also continuing work on a radio communications project to try to lower costs for the agencies, while improving communication with each other and with Franklin County, he said.
"Radio communications is a situation that is extremely costly and we are looking into options of dispatch at a lower rate via another agency to be named later," Portier said. "In addition, Groveport police will soon be able to communicate on other frequencies to the Fairfield County sheriff, Pickerington and Lithopolis police departments -- having the only first-response unit available to do so.
"The larger agencies -- Columbus and Franklin County -- do have communication vans, but our response to local agencies will be immediate and without delay in most cases now."
Westcamp said he is very thankful for these expanded partnerships.
"It's been a long time coming," he said. "I felt all along that the communities work well together and this would only make our city safer."