YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Vice President Mike Pence’s second stop in the Valley for the reveal of Lordstown Motors’ Endurance all-electric pickup truck was to the Youngstown Police Department.
There, he met with local law enforcement — to speak in support of officers during their shift change — and also local leaders to share an important message.
“We stand with the men and women of law enforcement and we always will, I promise you that,” Pence said. “I want to ensure you that the American people know that most of you who put on the uniform of law enforcement every day are the best people in this country.”
He gave special praise to Youngstown’s police department.
“He stopped by, offered some words of encouragement and identified us as an agency that is kind of setting the standard,” said Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees.
Pence met one-on-one with many people, each person bringing up different concerns, including areas of need with the on-going pandemic.
“How much is needed that local government would get federal help? The vice president said that a bill would be coming forth pretty soon,” said Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown.
The hope is sometime in July.
Pence also acknowledged the tragedy of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after a police officer in Minneapolis kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.
“There’s no excuse for what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis,” he said. “Justice will be served in that case.”
The vice president also said there’s “no excuse” for the violence and looting that has followed in some cases.
“There are some in the public debate who think we’ve got to choose between supporting law enforcement and supporting our African American neighbors,” Pence said. “What you’re doing here in Youngstown shows you don’t have to make that choice.”
He added the administration is not going to defund the police, but rather, fund better policing.
“We’re also going to look for ways to provide more resources to departments just like this one here in Youngstown,” Pence said.
Many of the area’s community activists were also invited. One made a list of issues he would like the administration to address.
“When he heard about the list that I talked about, he said, ‘Get it to me.’ Through his administration, they provided opportunities for us to talk as a group and get that list to them so they can actually look at it and assist us with it,” said community activist Derrick McDowell.
Head football coach for Chaney High School Chris Amill said he was impressed with the vice president, adding that he listened and seemed sincere about inner-city concerns. Amill told Pence what happens to some young African Americans once they move out of Youngstown.
“Youngstown is good. Our police department, I think, is one of the greatest there is when it comes to this stuff in building relationships and community involvement. But like Desmond, sooner or later you are going to leave Youngstown, then what? Those are the things I want to know and those are the things he didn’t have concrete answers for,” Amill said.
Amill also told Pence that more improvements are needed for the inner cities to help people succeed.
Also in attendance during the meeting were Captain Kevin Mercer, service division commander of the Youngstown Police Department; Rodney Foley, patrol division commander; Lt. Ramon Cox, B patrol officer in charge; Sergeant Ed Kenney, road supervisor; Sergeant Nick Menichini, road supervisor and William “Guy” Burney, executive director of the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence.