As Tiffin's police chief celebrated his 20th year at the Tiffin Police Department Friday, he reflected back on the evolution of the department.
Chief Fred Stevens, who was hired as a Tiffin police officer Dec. 20, 1993, and appointed chief in August 2012, said many changes have been made in the last two decades.
Two major changes, he said, have been the department's technological capabilities and its roster numbers.
PHOTO BY ERIKA PLATT-HANDRU
Tiffin Police Chief Fred Stevens poses in front of a mural at the Tiffin Police Department. Friday marked his 20th anniversary at the department.
"Through 20 years, I've seen a lot of growth in the city and the police department," he said.
In 1993, police officers used typewriters.
Now, everything is fully electronic, Stevens said. Officers also now have dash video cameras in their cruisers.
"When I started, only big departments had those," he said.
Another recent development is that the Tiffin Police Department now uses the same computer program to write and submit reports as the sheriff's office and other local law enforcement agencies. By doing so, more information can be shared between the county's law enforcement agencies.
"It's wonderful for the police department," Stevens said.
That's just one of the accomplishments that have been made while Stevens has been in charge. The training room, evidence room and the dispatch center also have all recently been remodeled.
"I think over the last couple years of being interim chief and chief, we've been able to accomplish a lot," Stevens said.
However, Stevens said one thing holding the department back is its roster numbers.
"The biggest thing I'd like to work on is getting the manning back to where it was," he said.
In 2012, the police department had 27 officers. Currently, it has 26. Stevens said authorized strength is 31.
"It puts a toll on the officers working," he said.
Calls must be prioritized by officers on duty, leaving some calls on the back burner, Stevens said.
"What slips is our everyday nuisance complaints," he said.
Because of low numbers, it's also harder for officers to be proactive when fighting illegal activity, like drugs.
"We don't want to become a reactive police department where we're just responding to crimes, but we've kind of gotten that way," Stevens said. "With low manning, we can't do the amount of traffic stops that are preventative to stop drugs."
To help with the staffing issue, Stevens introduced a reserve program earlier this year at the police department.
Officers seeking a job volunteer their time to gain experience, and in return, the Tiffin police department has an extra officer riding in its cruisers for free.
"We get the benefit of having an extra officer with a full-time officer," Stevens said.
The reserves also have a chance to be hired as a full-time officer if a position opens. Stevens said one was recently hired to replace an officer who retired.
"We still have two reserves on. We're looking to keep another one on," he said.
With close to 14,000 service calls so far this year, the reserves have helped the police department in strength. Its biggest battles have been prescription drug abuse, heroin and methamphetamine. Thefts also are on the upswing.
"We're not a Columbus, Toledo or Cincinnati, but we have the same types of crimes that those cities have. We just don't have them in the frequency," Stevens said.