YOUR HOMETOWN — Dayton: Department Polices With Care

Officers Regularly Check On Elderly, Disabled

Posted: March 20, 2013

Dayton police officer Shaun McDaniel visits with Fay and Bob Bentz at their Dayton home on Tuesday. The department began Operation Care, a program in which officers check up on homebound residents, about two years ago. Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R.
Police Chief Donald Conley calls on the Bentzes. Fay Bentz, 80, says she tells friends “the police help me with things, and they say, ‘the police?’ and I say, ‘that’s the Dayton police.’” Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R.
DAYTON — Among the police work on Dayton Police Chief Donald Conley’s to-do list Tuesday was an item absent from most other police force schedules: visit with neighbors.

As he rolled out of the Municipal Building parking lot in the morning, he headed to see Fay and Bob Bentz, 80 and 85, respectively.

Fay Bentz smiled as she opened the door and invited Conley in where the old friends took time to catch up on each others’ lives.

The time spent, they say, is important to both of them.

“We want to make sure the residents here in Dayton know that they have somebody looking out for them,” Conley said.

Similar visits have been routine for all Dayton police officers for about two years now thanks to the Operation Care program. As part of the program, officers visit 20 elderly or disabled residents or people who live alone once a month.

While the task doesn’t fit with the stereotypical role of a cop on the beat, Conley says it is just as important as running radar or patrolling the streets when it comes to demonstrating the way the department carries itself.

 “We try very hard to take care of our people here in town,” he said. “We don’t want to be viewed as the bad guys out here who don’t help people.”

The Operation Care program was created as a Girl Scout project by Blair Long, daughter of Dayton Mayor Charles Long. After seeing her father, who is diabetic, become unresponsive because of low blood sugar levels around 3 a.m. one morning, she wanted to make sure others always had help nearby.

The program also encourages people to post medication information on the refrigerator so that emergency personnel could find it easily if someone is unresponsive.

During visits, officers check on residents’ health, ask if they need help with anything and spend quality downtime, Conley said.

The Dayton-originated program has generated interest from other departments around the state, too.

“Communities want to know how can we do this and how can we start to go through our community,” Charles Long said.

The department hopes to double the number of people served by midsummer and increase the number of visits.

On top of the Operation Care visiting program, the force offers whatever services it can to help those residents, Conley said, including performing such day-to-day tasks as mowing the lawn or cleaning gutters.

“They have helped me out numerous times,” said Fay Bentz, who said she enjoys getting to know the officers. “Then they’re not strangers; you know who you’re talking to. It’s a real comfort.”

The good deeds fit into a larger community policing style the force employs. Conley said while other police departments may not help retrieve a resident’s keys from a locked car, offer women’s self-defense classes or routinely carry lollipops to hand out to children, in Dayton that’s the norm.

“There’s really no limits to what we’ll do for the community,” he said.

Added Fay Bentz: “I tell friends, ‘The police help me with things,’ and they say, ‘the police?’ and I say ‘that’s the Dayton police.’”

Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or esharrer@dnronline.com



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