As the City of Milwaukee becomes the latest city to face race riots due to the death of an accused Black man by police, another side of what the nation’s police officers see in their duties appears. On August 9th, an Ohio police officer showed with this actions how those who serve and protect do so for the betterment of their communities and that their everyday heroism is overlooked. The actions of police officers across the country are under a microscope but too many times the only actions that are reported are those of conflict.
Franklin, Ohio Police Officer Steve Dunham was on duty, Tuesday, when a call came in that a child was trying to his sell toys in front of a store because he needed money to eat. The child was 7 years old and was trying to sell his teddy bear. Officer Dunham approached the boy, who Dunham said was “really nervous at first.” Chief Russ Whitman stated what Dunham reported that the boy stated that he had not eaten for several days. Fearing for the health and welfare of the boys reported brothers, ages 11, 12, 15 and 17, the officer called in for help to check on their welfare while Dunham took the child out to eat at Subway sandwich shop. As officers were going to check on the boy’s sibling he was able to sit at the police station, watch cartoons with a dispatcher for a few hours and wait until a family member picked him up.
Officers who arrived at the home found the other children living in deplorable conditions. Officer Dunham stated that at the home that they found garbage and liquor bottles everywhere, and there was a strong smell of cat urine. Officers noted that there was a substantial risk of health and safety by neglecting the cleanliness in the residence, having a large amount of bugs and spoiled food throughout the residence, not having properly prepared and packaged food for the minor children to eat.”
There were two parents, Tammy and Michael Bethel, were in the home who were then taken into custody for and charged then with five counts of child neglect. The parents told police they were unaware that the 7-year-old had even left the home. They pled not guilty after their arrest but will have pre-trial conference in September. Child Protective Services contacted another family member to pick up the boys. The parents were allowed to remain free while the case continues through the judicial system.
Chief Russ Whitman said of his department’s actions, “I’m very proud of my officers for what they did, but officers across the nation go above and beyond every single day,” Whitman said. “We just happened to be put in the limelight. You can find stories like this everywhere with police officers every day. That’s why we get into this business, to help people.” Continuing the Chief said, “treated them like their own kids, and that’s exactly what law enforcement does in situations like this. How would we want someone to treat our kids?” Whitman told WLWT. “Hopefully, these officers’ actions change these kids’ lives and maybe change the lives of the parents to become better parents.”
Nikki Hawkins, the victim’s advocate who was called to the scene, wrote about the officers involved and the good work that took place helping these children. She wrote on the Facebook page of the police department that “We see sad cases all the time and sometimes it just feels like ‘another day in the life’, but you all fed this little boy and his brothers and made him feel safe in the middle of a nasty situation The way you treated and took care of this little guy touched my heart. Thank you for taking the steps to not only keep him safe and healthy, but also going the extra mile to comfort him and show him that people care about him. I’m lucky to work beside officers like you.”