Just like robbers rob banks because that’s where the money is, and criminals don’t stop at the state line, law enforcement agencies at all levels work together regularly to investigate crimes and prosecute offenders.

From one-time bank robberies to suspected terrorist attacks and everything in between, law enforcement entities from local and county, to state and federal levels cooperate every day, according to the men and women who work in the industry.

“Local law enforcement has always worked with other agencies,” said Mentor Police Chief Kevin Knight in a May 31 telephone interview. “Everybody has their different areas of experience and expertise, so it’s just a natural thing that we help each other out. That’s how it is. That’s how it’s always been.”

He said a great example of this kind of routine cooperation is the ParkOhio SuperBoat Grand Prix, which debuted in August at Headlands Beach State Park in Painesville Township.  “For that, we worked with the (Lake County Sheriff’s Office), Painesville police, Grand River, Fairport Harbor, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Coast Guard…” Knight said. “We all worked together on that thing. (Officers) came here, with different areas of expertise, to make sure things went smoothly and everybody stayed safe. That’s a prime example right there.”

Another more recent example of inter-agency cooperation at multiple levels is the fatal boating accident in Lake Erie which occurred behind Lakeline Village Hall on Lake Shore Boulevard. That incident, which claimed the life of Mentor resident Carl B. Markel, involved not only the Eastlake, Kirtland, Wickliffe and Willowick fire departments. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Coast Guard also took part in the rescue and subsequent investigation.

Knight provided more examples, including the county’s bomb squad, whose home is in Mentor.  “We work together all the time with the Secret Service,” he said, citing a number of presidential visits in recent memory. “How about bank robberies? We work with (the FBI) on those all the time. We work with the Ohio Investigative Unit, which used to be known as liquor control, on various investigations. We’ve always worked together with (the U.S. Department of) Homeland Security. And, in fact, one of our detectives is on the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force and he’s a sworn U.S. marshal and can go anywhere the U.S. Marshals can go in pursuit of a bad guy.”

Knight also cited last summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the fact that some delegates stayed in Mentor lodging venues for its duration.  He also added that, when state and federal agencies like the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or the FBI come to the city as part of an investigation or to serve warrants, having local police on hand is not only customary and provides a uniformed presence. The local agency may witness prosecutable offenses with which state and federal agencies aren’t necessarily charged with investigating.

Plus, as Cleveland FBI spokeswoman Special Agent Vicki Anderson, pointed out May 31, “We all have the same goal: to keep the public safe and put the bad guys in jail. So there is a lot of cooperation.”  She said that, aside from all the FBI task forces out there, like the joint terrorism task force, violent crimes task force, organized crime task force and others, local, county, state and federal agencies around Northeast Ohio are working together daily.  “Plus, we do mock training exercises,” she said. “When it comes to active shooter situations, terrorism training scenarios — you name it — we role-play those so that we have our contacts in place and our partnerships already established in case an event would happen.”

Another Northeast Ohio expert on the area’s inter-agency law enforcement cooperation is Lake County Narcotics Agency Director David Frisone, who said, “That’s the only way we’re ever going to win the war on drugs — if we’re working together.”  Like the Mentor Police Department’s having a U.S. Marshal on the department, Frisone’s crew also has a dually appointed county/federal agent by way of a staffer who also works for the DEA and reports to its Cleveland office and has federal jurisdiction.

He said although his agency’s main focus is on prosecuting traffickers, drug producers and dealers, most of their investigations begin with officers out on the streets, in their cruisers, in stores and other public places with which they’re familiar.

“That’s really how it works,” he said. “The average, everyday patrol officer, riding around in his cruiser, is going to observe drug transactions take place, or stop an addict for speeding and, often, an investigation will escalate from there.”  He said it’s then his agency’s countywide jurisdiction that will help catch the dealer from whom the initial addict bought the stuff, and so on.

“What routinely happens is, the person who bought the drugs got them from someone who lives outside of that city,” he said. “So we work from there to escalate the investigation and, as we say, climb up the ladder to who’s dealing it and so on.”

One thing Frisone said about inter-agency cooperation throughout Lake County is its pervasiveness and purity, something to which he credits the region’s many proactive police chiefs, sheriffs and other agency heads.  “Everyone puts their egos aside,” he said. “It’s not territorial and it’s not about who gets the credit for it. When you can count on the guys on your left and the guys on your right to be competent, professional and well trained, you’re in a good situation.”

Published by News-Herald