Saturday, September 09, 2000

Officer's death brings danger home to recruits

They learn from it so he didn't die 'in vain'

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hours after Cincinnati Police Officer Kevin Crayon was buried Thursday, a dozen police trainees stood in a Butler County parking lot and watched as another Cincinnati officer re-enacted the events that led to Officer Crayon's death.

        “We don't know which one of us might end up in a similar situation someday,” said Middletown Police Detective J.B. Chase, lead instructor for the Butler County Peace Officer Academy.

        “Anytime an officer dies in the line of duty, a part of me dies; that's the brotherhood. A part of society dies. And it's up to us to learn from it, to analyze it, so he didn't die in vain.”

        After a moment of silence in Officer Crayon's honor, the recruits turned to learning.

        Cincinnati Officer Blaine Jorg, a volunteer instructor for the academy, walked through the events last week in Mount Airy. Officer Crayon fatally shot 12-year-old Courtney Mathis while the youth was driving a car that dragged the officer to his death.

        At the end of the re-enactment outside New Miami Elementary School, Officer Jorg told the recruits that he knew Officer Crayon, then bit his lips together and swiftly turned and walked away.

        The aspiring officers suggested what Officer Crayon could have done differently.

        He could have used his radio to report his location. He might have been able to approach the vehicle more cautiously, and he might have avoided putting his arms inside the vehicle, presumably to switch off the car's ignition. If any of those variables had been changed, maybe Officer Crayon and Courtney would have lived — but maybe not.

        “It's hard to say whether any of this would have made a difference,” said Middletown Police Sgt. Will Rogers, another academy instructor.

        “And we can't say, "Don't ever do that,' because no two circumstances are ever going to be the same. The lesson here is that you have to be adaptable. You always have to be ready to react to the unknown.”

        One of the biggest difficulties of police work is “you have a split-second to decide what to do — and everyone else has five years to decide whether what you did is right or wrong,” Detective Chase said.

        Recruit Rodney Naticchioni, 22, of Fairfax said, “The day before Officer Crayon's death, we had spent hours talking about what to do on a traffic stop. It makes you wonder, "What did go wrong?' It's easy to second-guess someone, but we weren't there.”

        Fellow recruit Philip VanCleve, 23, of Monroe said: “It made me realize how truly dangerous it can be to be a police officer — even on a quote-unquote routine traffic stop. Nothing we do can be treated as routine. It brought it all down to reality.”

Complete coverage of Officer Crayon's death
Coroner: Impact with car killed policeman instantly
- Officer's death brings danger home to recruits

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