SALINEVILLE - In answer to questions raised about his arrest powers, police Chief Terry McElroy has submitted documentation to the Ohio Police Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) and has been assured he is qualified to make arrests.
McElroy is retired from the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) and has been the village's police chief for about six weeks. He addressed the issue of his arrest powers Monday while giving an update at a town hall meeting of the council's safety committee at the fire hall.
Soon after he was sworn in as chief, rumors circulated that since McElroy had been a state law enforcement officer and not an OPOTA-certified peace officer, he was not certified to make local arrests. He told the group of citizens gathered Monday that he and the two part-time officers now on duty in the village have arrest powers. In fact, they have made four drug arrests and tracked down five people wanted on warrants.
McElroy explained the question of his local arrest powers because of his OSHP background is an old idea from the days when troopers did not receive any training in handling situations of domestic violence. Troopers were on the road in their vehicles and not going door-to-door at people's homes, so domestic violence training was not required. McElroy said it has been at least 10 years since that policy was changed, and all OSHP troopers do receive domestic violence training.
He said OSHP officials began to include the training because troopers were increasingly called to assist in cases of domestic violence. McElroy said although any question of his arrest powers is a non-issue, he sent his documentation to OPOTA.
McElroy said OPOTA officials not only assured him that his certification was not a problem, they said with all the training he had through the OSHP, he is probably more qualified than many police chiefs in the state.
OSHP, Columbiana County Sheriff's Department and surrounding local departments have all been willing to offer any advice and assistance to the Salineville department, McElroy said.
OSHP troopers and sheriff's deputies have been assisting with patrols and other matters during the transition of the department that began in March.
Council made reductions in hours and pay due to financial woes, and soon after the reductions were approved, officers on staff at the time began to resign. The council approved the resignation of the last officer on staff previously and the hiring of McElroy at the same meeting.
McElroy and two patrolmen are working part-time. He said OSHP, the sheriff's office and other agencies are assisting because of his department's staffing situation.
By the end of May or the first part of June, McElroy hopes to be able to hire another part-time officer. He has a candidate in mind who is finishing his OPOTA training and riding with officers as an auxiliary.
Auxiliary officers do not carry firearms and have no arrest powers, McElroy noted.
"Right now there's just not enough manpower for the work we need done," he said. McElroy noted, however, he is making full use of all available resources. He hopes to have four patrol cars up and running in a few weeks, including one that will be unmarked.
Besides assistance from surrounding departments, McElroy has made use of the OSHP's criminal patrol unit with a K-9, and a K-9 team from Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). Both will make return trips to the village, he said.
McElroy also noted he can also make use of the K-9 teams from Hancock County Sheriff's Office, the K-9 of Wellsville Police Department, and one from St. Clair Township Police Department that will be on patrol in a few weeks.