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Criminal Justice Update

Welcome to the Blue family, kid


Sept. 7 was a big day for 5-year-old Allysson Nead. So, too, for the Mansfield-area cops who have taken her into their hearts and welcomed her into their ranks.

That Wednesday, after all, was the day the curly-haired kindergartner became a member of the Mansfield Police Department.

Outside the city administration building, in front of scores of relatives, friends, journalists, politicians and Richland County law enforcement officers, Allysson was sworn onto the police force by Acting Safety Service Director Dave Remy.

Looking both solemn and adorable in the pint-size uniform that the Mansfield PD had made for her, Allysson pledged allegiance to the department and the people of Mansfield as Police Chief Keith Porch and Ally’s parents and siblings looked over her shoulder.

And then came the badge — No. 300. Assistant Chief Jason Bammann explained that because the radio dispatch code for the Mansfield PD is 300,  the number had never been assigned to an officer — until now.

“That badge number is always yours,” Bammann told Allysson. “You will always be a member of the Mansfield Police Department.”

With that, the assistant chief gave the badge to Allysson’s mom, Amber, who knelt in front of her daughter and gently pinned it on her. Both Mom and Dad struggled to fight back tears.

“For as long as I can remember, she has always wanted to be a cop to help and protect people,” said Allysson’s father, David Nead, who once shared the same dream while a criminal justice student at Pioneer Career and Technology Center. “There are no words to describe what the day meant to our family. We can’t say thanks enough to all the men and women from the different agencies who took part in this.”

Allysson was born with a rare progressive neurological disease, Neimann-Pick type C, sometimes called childhood Alzheimer’s. An inherited metabolic disorder, the disease results in an abnormal accumulation of cholesterol in the cells of the brain and nervous system, eventually resulting in seizures, dementia, problems with coordination and movement, as well as difficulty speaking, eating and swallowing. There is no cure, and death typically occurs before age 20.

In Allysson’s case, however, doctors didn’t expect her to see her first birthday.

"With love and by the grace of God, she's still here with us today," Amber Nead said.

Allysson’s big day came together because a family friend learned of her wish to be a Mansfield cop, told an acquaintance, retired detective Ron Packer — who in turn went to Bammann and suggested the department run with the idea. The chief and the acting safety service director immediately signed on. But all involved knew this wouldn’t be easy.

First, there was the planning, which eventually came together thanks to Bammann’s enthusiastic team — financial manager, Hollie McCauley; youth program coordinator Ginger Antrican; crime analyst Krista Sonnhalter; and Lt. Mike Napier.

The bigger problem was how everyone was going to keep their emotions in check.

“The chief and I had a discussion behind closed doors,” Bammann said. “He brought it up first. He said, ‘I don’t know that I can get through this.’ So we made a pact. We would watch each other, and when one of us lost it, the other would step in. We were going to leap-frog each other to get through it.”

McCauley said team members had to remind one another throughout the planning sessions that “it’s not about us — it’s about giving Allysson a memorable day.”

To add to the festivities, the Mansfield PD invited other area agencies to take part in the event.
Police officers in Shelby, where the Neads live, made sure the family traveled the 12 miles to Mansfield in style.

“I didn’t know they were doing all that,” David Nead said. “On the morning of the ceremony, I saw two cruisers, lights and sirens on, pulling up in front of our house.”

Inside the cars were his friends, Sgt. Tim Scott and Auxiliary Officer David Barnhart. Their first stop after loading up the family was the Shelby Fire Department, which lent one of its trucks for the mini-parade to Mansfield.

“We were cooking — 70 to 75 mph,” David Nead said. “Tim let Allysson work the lights and siren. She couldn’t have been happier.”

After the swearing-in ceremony, Richland County Sheriff  Steve Sheldon and Ontario Police Chief Tom Hill got into the act by presenting gifts to Allysson.

“But the Shelby PD showed us all up,” Bammann said. “They gave her an electric toy police car that she can drive around her neighborhood.”

As with any newly inducted officer, Allysson had training to do. She rotated among various sections — traffic division, SWAT team, crime lab, K-9 unit, detective bureau — and was tasked with investigating the disappearance of the bureau’s candy jar. (Turns out, the chief has a sweet tooth.)

Allysson’s big smile and big hugs tugged a lot of hearts at the Mansfield PD. Chief Porch said it was an honor to swear her onto the force, and McCauley said the department will definitely look for ways to keep the youngster involved now that she’s part of the Blue family.

Because Allysson is an official member of the Mansfield PD, Bammann said, “she will always be afforded the same rights and privileges that any Mansfield police officer receives.”

No matter what other honors might lie ahead, Sept. 7 was a dream come true for Allysson.

When she started kindergarten, just days after her swearing-in ceremony, her teacher asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up. David Nead said his daughter didn’t hesitate.
“I already am what I want to be,” she told her classmates. “I’m a cop.”