Culture change in Rossford PD

ROSSFORD — The Rossford Police Department is at your service.

At the first Citizens Police Academy session, the participants learned how the department has evolved.

“I don’t want a ‘just writing tickets’ attitude,” said Police Chief Todd Kitzler said of the modern department. “It’s been a culture change.”

He explained how policing and the department has changed since he started in the early 1990s, with a shift from being “super troopers” who were pushed to write tickets and search for drunk drivers, to becoming a service-oriented department that tries to help the community create a safe culture.

The impaired driving, or OVI, tickets are an example, of that culture shift. When Kitzler started, each officer might write as many OVI tickets as the entire department did last year: 52. He stressed that they are not ignoring dangerous situations, but have done things like encouraging bars and restaurants to work with taxi and ride-sharing services.

The academy is another example of his efforts. It’s the first one for the city, which he asked the Sentinel-Tribune cover. Highlights of each class over the next nine weeks will be featured, with photos.

The department also has an extensive daily, continuing educational program for the officers, based on Lexipol, public safety policy and training software that the city administration supports. The $7,000-per-year program tracks the daily educational studies of the officers, which cover everything from the department mission statement to the latest legal requirements for search and seizure methods.

That mission statement is something that Kitzler takes very seriously.

“It basically says the reason the organization exists. I went to the trouble to put it on the back of our police cars,” Kitzler said.“‘Community first through service and partnerships,’ which is followed by the department website, www.rossfordpolice.com.”

He also emphasized that as the community continues to grow, with added traffic like that resulting from the new Amazon facility, the department is also continuing to grow. In explaining the department organizational chart, Kitzler noted that the new lieutenant position, which is just under that of the chief, now allows the detective to focus more on individual cases, while also allowing the chief to do things like the Academy.

Kitzler has also been able to increase officer pay and streamline the lengthy recruitment and hiring process. The seven-part process can take up to five months, but now has been reduced significantly with the policy shift to allow lateral transfers from other police departments.

The first class included a tour of the police facilities.

There is a focus on increased safety and efficiency, which extends to both the tasers and the new body cameras. Both have digital uploads at the end of each shift, which are automatically stored in the cloud.

Firearms instructor Sgt. Anthony Allen, who is also a member of the Wood County Special Response Team, explained equipment used by the officers.

In the basement shooting range, he showed the new red-dot gun sights. Instead of having to line up traditional sights, they now just have a laser dot to sight on the target, which allows the officer greater situational awareness, especially with peripheral vision.

Allen also showed each item on their utility belts, such as the asp, which has received some negative press in other departments. While the Rossford officers still carry the devices, they prefer to use the less destructive tasers and pepper spray. They do keep the units because the modern devices double with a vehicle glass breakage tool, which Allen said follows in their service and safety role as first responders.

Lt. Craig Revill demonstrated the police vehicle tools and functions, such as the lights. In addition to the red and blue emergency lights, the light bar has alley beams and forward beams. The siren also turns off when the vehicle is put in park.

“It’s one less thing you have to do when you are under stress,” Revill said.

Efficiency extends to writing tickets. No longer does anyone have to worry that the ticket might be lost or a name misspelled, when it goes to the courts. Driver licenses are now scanned in the police car like a credit card, the ticket is printed off in the vehicle and the information is automatically uploaded to the court system when the car is parked at the end of the shift.

Just in case, the officer also still writes out a backup hard copy.