By Pat Caldwell
NYSSA — Maybe it wasn’t a moment of Zen, but Don Ballou can still remember when he realized how effective community policing could be.
Ballou, who was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant for the Nyssa Police Department last week, said he was called to a Nyssa home a few years ago where a barricaded man was threatening suicide.
The man also threatened to shoot police officers that came near.
Ballou managed to talk to the man and, after some tense moments, he surrendered.
After the incident the man was honest with Ballou.
“I wanted to shoot you. But I knew it was you. And I couldn’t do it,” he told Ballou.
That’s the advantage of small town police work.
As a police officer, former school resource officer and longtime Nyssa resident, Ballou knows a lot of people. And they know him.
“Being in the school I’ve come to know these kids and you develop a bond,” said Ballou.
Ballou began with the Nyssa Police Department in 1997 as a reserve officer and then rose through the ranks to reach the department’s second-highest slot.
Ballou said his promotion to lieutenant is about more than just rank.
“It feels good that my superior and my guys felt I deserved that,” said Ballou.
His job will change.
“A sergeant does more of the day-to-day stuff, a lot of frontlines supervisory duties,” Ballou said.
Now Ballou will be more focused on administrative duties and handling specialized investigative work. Still, because the department is small, he remains a jack-of-all trades. One benefit of the promotion, Ballou said, is perception among other police agencies.
“Frankly it opens the doors to deal with other agencies because other agencies look at rank structure,” said Ballou.
Ballou said he has seen some big changes in his nearly 20 years of service to Nyssa.
One is the amount of crime.
“When I first came on, it was bad. We had gang fights. We had two primary gangs and a third one moving in,” said Ballou.
Back then, said Ballou, it was common on a weekend for officers deal with 15 criminal reports. Now, he said, the typical weekend produces three, maybe four reports.
So what happened?
Ballou said a large anti-gang operation that concluded in 2011 coupled with closer and better communication among county police agencies helped roll back crime.
The arrival of Ray Rau as chief also played a role, Ballou said.
Criminals “see they are going to be held accountable now,” Ballou said.
Ballou said he likes his job.
“The best part is I get to work with the community and I like to work with kids,” said Ballou.
He’s a strong believer in community policing.
“We need the community. They are a huge key,” said Ballou. “And our community is pretty good on how they treat and support us.”
Ballou acknowledged that his elevation to lieutenant puts him in line to one day succeed Rau as chief but his focus now is on the department as a whole.
“Chief Rau has pushed the department forward and it is in a direction I wanted to see. So keeping that going forward will be the challenge,” Ballou said.
Have a news tip? Contact reporter Patrick J. Caldwell at [email protected] or (541) 473-3377.