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An open letter to the community from University Circle Inc. Chief of Police Tom Wetzel

Posted on 12/06/23 by Tom in University Circle Police Department

University Circle’s Elite Police Force in the Making

On June 7, 2023, I had the privilege to be sworn in as Interim Police Chief at the University Circle Police Department. After a confirmation and engagement process led by the board of University Circle Incorporated, I took on the permanent role in September with the full support of new UCI President Kate Borders.

In this time of transition, it was vitally important that we hit the ground running to begin building bridges of trust with those we serve and developing positive relationships with our citizens. I also placed heavy emphasis on officer wellness initiatives to help keep police personnel healthy and motivated. We established a new motto which embraces our culture and mindset: the University Circle Police Department aspires to become an elite police institution and national model of excellence. I’m proud to report that our diverse team has been providing an excellent level of service to our greater University Circle community. After six months on the job, some of my favorite highlights are below.

Community Engagement

  • Reenergized previous UCPD community policing initiatives while also launching new programs to reach a broader community. Programs like Coffee with a Cop, Hike with a Cop, Jazz with a Cop, and Community Safety Talks enable our officers to have open dialogue with residents and employees.
  • The UCPD Police Ambassador Program was launched in collaboration with the Magnolia Clubhouse and Help Foundation to provide meaningful jobs at the police department to those with mental health struggles or intellectual disabilities. These ambassadors partner with officers to garner employee soft skills and learn positive community outreach.
  • Started a police cruiser art competition in collaboration with the Mary McLeod Bethune School, engaging young citizens with art and civics

Staffing Development

  • Placed heavy emphasis on recruitment with a focus on diversifying our police force and have hired five new officers and promoted four officers, one to captain and three to sergeant
  • Reverend Dr. Leon Thompson was named the first Police Chaplain to provide support to our personnel and community
  • A Community Policing K-9 Program was established with Sergeant Keeper and our community police K-9 Grace. This duo continues to do amazing work in building trust and friendships.

Accolades

  • Two UCPD officers received the Lifesaving Award from the American Police Hall of Fame for helping save the life of a woman in distress
  • The Ohio Chiefs of Police Association and Law Enforcement Foundation named UCPD the September Agency of the Month for Sharing Ohio’s Best Program for the work of K-9 Grace and Sergeant Keeper
  • The agency hosted the Motivation & Discipline Regional Think Tank, a one-day training and dialogue program which was attended by 14 area safety agencies

Department Advancements

  • Invested in non-lethal, de-escalation tools through the procurement of two BolaWraps to help prevent injuries to officers and subjects
  • Installed four dash cameras in department vehicles to supplement department required police body cameras
  • Began an expanded department IT initiative to increase network security and reliability

Strengthening relationships does not stop at the precinct door for this team. Internally, we’re forging new bonds with the civilian side of University Circle Inc. with robust ride-along experiences. These bonds create a stronger level of service, reflecting the Servant’s Heart mission.

While the majority of our efforts have yielded positive and uplifting outcomes, it is crucial to acknowledge that the nature of our work still involves real-life risks every day. A recent incident exemplifies this reality, where two of our officers made a critical arrest of a suspect in a stolen car, discovering two assault rifles and two handguns within.

Despite the challenges, the unwavering commitment of our team underscores the significance of our mission. As we strive to evolve into an elite police institution and a national model of excellence, the future shines brightly for the University Circle Police Department.

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