THIS HISTORY IS FROM A BOOK WRITTEN IN 2000 BY MIKE BURG. IT HAS BEEN REFORMATTED FOR USE HERE ON THIS WEB SITE. WE THANK CHIEF BURG FOR GENEROUSLY ALLOWING US TO USE IT HERE ON THE RPD WEB SITE. FULL PRINTED COPIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THE RITTMAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY.SOME CHARTS MAY NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY DEPENDING ON THE SIZE OF YOUR SCREEN.
MARSHALS & PATROLMEN
THE RITTMAN POLICE DEPARTMENT
1833 – 2000
168 YEARS OF SERVICE
Copyright – 2001 – Michael Burg -All rights are reserved
This book is dedicated to the men and women of the Rittman Police Department.
Through the years the Rittman Police Department has been extremely fortunate to have many dedicated and loyal employees. They have helped to make the city of Rittman a safe place to live and work.
Thanks go to so many people who assisted me in this project. The many former officers and dispatchers and their families who helped me “set the record straight” and who shared their stories with me. I appreciate all of your assistance.
To Ellen, for putting up with me & for all of her support – I LOVE YOU.
To Jenny, Sarah & Christie just for being yourselves. You have added so much to my life. I love you. My mom & dad (Pat & Harold) for all of your support, love & encouragement through the years. I know there were times I didn’t make it easy for you! I love you both.
To some special people who greatly assisted me in this project:
- John Wagner – Thanks for your fantastic computer skills
- Glen Berkey – Thanks for your dark room skills & your knowledge of Rittman
- Bob & Anita Frase – Thanks for assisting me with some of my research
- Susie Hitchcock – Thanks for assisting me with some of the research & finding “lost” officers & dispatchers!
- David & Eddie Heffelman – Thanks for sharing some of the items & memories of your father & grandfather
- I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Lindsey Williams & the Rittman Historical
Society for permitting me to use portions of “Arise Wild Land”
- I must also thank The Daily Record in Wooster, Ohio for permission to use a great deal of
material from their newspaper in the writing of this book.
And finally, to a few former officers & dispatchers who helped me “put things in order”:
- Lucy Roberts
- Sam Strimlin
- Robert Garretson
- Bob Perrin
- Joe Figura
- Kenny King
- Linda Crawford
- MaryJo Sohar
- Elaine Thompson
As of the printing of this book over one hundred & sixty eight years of law enforcement presence in Rittman. That’s a long time. Law enforcement in Rittman has actually been around longer than Rittman has! 1833 is the first recorded Constable. We have come a long, long way. From horse & buggy patrol to patrol cars equipped with MDT’s.
During that one hundred sixty eight years the men & women who have served as constables, marshals or with the Rittman Police Department as officers or communications personnel have done their best to “protect and serve” with impartiality and fairness. They have also, though admittedly not always successfully, attempted to stay one step ahead of the criminal element.
Through the years the department has demonstrated a progressive and proactive stance against crime and criminals. Like all departments we have had our good times as well as our bad, however in the final analysis I believe that we’ve come out ahead & a better department because of some of those “lean” years.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The area where Rittman now stands is known to have been inhabited as early as 2500 BC based upon archeological findings.
In 1898 a wildcat oil driller, passing through on a train, noticed an oil slick on the swap along the tracks. He purchased the mineral rights to the land and began to drill for oil. While drilling he struck salt, not oil as he had hoped. Discouraged, he sold the mineral right to the land to a group of businessmen. From that day until this, more than one hundred years later, salt has been brought up from the earth on a daily basis in Rittman.
Before settling on the name of Rittman the area went through numerous name changes. It was called Shinersburg and then changed to New Trenton. Since there was already a Trenton, Ohio it was again changed in 1836 to New Prospect and the first post office held that name.
However, the small village was to take on several more names before finally becoming Rittman.
In 1870 the name was changed to Milton Station. Then just nine years later (1879) it was again changed to Ellio.
Just one year later (1880) the name was once again changed to Akrona. Due to the many railroad passengers bound for nearby Akron getting off at Akrona by mistake, Erie Railroad officials asked the residents to select a formal name for their community.
The citizens couldn’t agree on a name and railroad officials finally told the residents that they could name their Village anything they wanted to but to avoid the Akron-Akrona confusion, they were going to name their station RITTMAN, after their treasurer, Fred Rittman.
The citizens came to accept the name. So after six different names the small village had its final name.
Rittman is the only city in the United States with that name.
It’s ironic that our namesake, Fred Rittman, never lived or visited the village named after him.
(A great deal of the information in this chapter was taken from the book, Arise Wild Land, by Lindsey Williams.)
THE EARLY YEARS
Like every small village the need for law enforcement exists. Rittman was no exception. Prior to incorporation the village relied on the township constable for their law enforcement needs.
The earliest constable on record was Daniel McCrory in 1833. Constable McCrory was succeeded by:
John Kleckner – Uriah Dewese – James Medsker – Henry Hyde – John Dudgeion – Adam Peckinpaugh – S. Watkins – D. Johnston – M. Dague – M. H. Clark – James Smith – G. Hay – John Templeton – J. Cotton – C. Stokey (1844)
The record is void between 1844 and 1910 when the last constable, John Kunkler served.
(Based upon information in “Arise Wild Land” by Lindsey Williams)
(1911 – 1959)
One of the things that perhaps prompted the city fathers to establish some sort of organized law enforcement in Rittman was an area known as “White City”. White City was a problem area for the Constables & Marshals who served Rittman.
Built in the early 1900’s White City sat in the area that is today the North Parking lot of Rittman Paperboard (formerly PCA).
It was built by the Boxboard for their white-collar workers. Basically it was a single street of row houses. When better housing became available in town the white-collar workers moved out & the “foreigners” moved in. Most were of Czech and Yugoslavian descent. It’s been said that at one point only two people in White City spoke any English.
White City was torn down in 1931.
On March 29, 1911 the village held its first safety committee meeting.
On April 7, 1911 in appointing the first Marshal, the village council authorized the purchase of a gun, a club, handcuffs and a badge. At that time the village Marshal’s office was a small wooden building on Sterling Avenue (South side) just West of S. Main St.
The first Marshal, Al Beichler, used to patrol on foot, on horseback and occasionally in a buggy.
Marshal Beichler served only a year and was followed by Marshal George W. Long.
On October 8, 1912 the Mayor began to have problems with Marshal Long and charged malfeasance of duty. Village Council requests a meeting with the marshal to discuss this matter. On October 21, 1912 Marshal Long resigns.
Then on November 18, 1912, Marshal John Schorger was appointed by Village Council. Marshal Schorger accepted the job on the condition that he could have an extra set of handcuffs and a stove for the office.
At a subsequent meeting on January 22, 1912 council authorized the clerk to secure estimates for the purchase of a steel cage to house prisoners in the marshal’s office.
On March 18, 1912 council moved to purchase a two cell steel cage from the Van Dorn Iron Works in Cleveland, Ohio for the price of $182.70. Through the years these cells were moved as the marshal’s office/police department moved and were taken out of service in 1993.
Marshal Schorger was also a local businessman who was unable to meet some of his financial obligations and could not account for some of the funds that had been entrusted to him as Village Marshal. Marshal Schorger fled to Louisiana to avoid prosecution!
Marshal Schorger was succeeded by Marshal A.F. Wolfe and then by Marshal Ollie Cox in 1916.
Marshal Cox had the Marshal’s Office moved from the Sterling Ave. location to a location which is now the intersection of Erie St. and Diagonal St. It was moved due to a question of a clear title to the land on Sterling Ave.
Citizens, Mr. Lambert and Mr. Goffinet protested the new location of the Marshal’s Office. They feared the escape of “rascals” who would be jailed there. Mr. Lambert’s and Mr. Goffinet’s properties were on opposite sides of where the Marshal’s Office was located.
To assist the Marshal in keeping law and order in the Village there were new ordinances for the Village Council to act upon.
At this time the factories in town were attracting more, and a new element of, people to town. Many strangers and folks from foreign countries sometimes created a language barrier. Some of these people stayed and became solid Rittman citizens. There were also some tough individuals (especially during WW I) for the Marshal to deal with.
In 1912 there is the first mention of a need for speed laws in town. At about the same time an ordinance is passed to license “hawkers” and street peddlers. A request to allow Sunday baseball is first denied by Village Council and then granted.
On December 16, 1912 the first curfew law went into effect in Rittman.
Records show that in 1912 there was a local law prohibiting the sale of firearms within the Village limits. There is, however, no record of this law ever being enforced!
In March of 1916 Mayor Frank Homes appoints Marshal Cox to the position of Fire Chief.
Next to serve the Village was Marshal Ed Mills in 1920. Marshal Mills was known as one of Rittman’s most colorful Marshal’s. Mills was a large man who wouldn’t hesitate to settle brawls with his fists.
Marshal Ed Mills once broke up a fight among six of the foreigners in White City who then turned on him. Marshal Mills was stabbed eleven times. After being treated by a local doctor Marshal Mills rounded up some deputies & went back to White City to arrest his attackers.
The local paper reported the incident & warned that, “Americans should not enter the foreign section of town except on business.”
The Marshal’s daughter (Mrs. Ethel Mills-Parker) relates a story about her father. One of Marshal Mills’ biggest thorns were chicken thieves out of Akron. When they observed the Marshal they would make a run for the village limits and the safety of the township, where Marshal Mills didn’t have jurisdiction. In order to solve this situation Ed Mills ran for Township Constable…and won. Now when the “Akron chicken thieves” came to Rittman, grabbed their chickens and ran for the “safety” of the village/township line, they were no longer safe. Marshal Mills could still pursue them and arrest them…as Constable Mills! I asked Mrs. Mills-Parker if he could hold two elected offices like that–to which she replied, “Well, he did”!
Rittman had put its first sewer lines in around 1910, yet residents in outlying areas still used out houses. These out houses were tempting targets for mischief makers, especially on Halloween, and “push overs” would keep Marshal Mills busy on those nights.
On nights such as that the Marshal would keep his open touring car with wood spoked wheels parked on the square with the front end facing the street for quicker response. On one Halloween night some boys chained the wheels of the Marshals car to a steel hitching rail. Then they pushed over a nearby out house and hid to watch. Marshal Mills got into his car, started it up and took off. Only until he got to the end of the chain. The resulting jolt bent the hitching post and tore the spokes out of the rear wheels of the Marshal’s car.After that incident Marshal Mills refused to use his personal car for official duty. Village Council then purchased the first police vehicle owned by the Village, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
On February 8, 1923 Village Council agreed to combine the Marshal’s Office and the fire department. Once again the Marshal’s Office was moved. This time to the Southwest corner of E. Ohio Ave. and South State St. The building had a jail (the cells purchased from Van Dorn), an office for the Marshal and a storage room for fire supplies.
At some point between the early 1920’s and 1933 the first dispatching capabilities were installed for the Marshal. Primitive compared to today’s standards, it was, nevertheless, a manner in which to get the Marshal or his deputy notified of a call in a faster manner.
The system consisted of ten red lights mounted on utility poles at different locations throughout the village. When a citizen wished to phone in a complaint he/she would call the operator of the Ohio Central Telephone Company and give the operator the location and the nature of the problem. The phone operator in turn would flip a switch, which would illuminate all of the red lights. When the Marshal or deputy would see the light lit, he would go to the office or nearest public telephone and call the operator to get the call. The operator would then turn the lights off until the next call.
The red lights were at the following locations:
In the Marshal’s Office
On the front of Village Hall
At the corner of Salt St. & Industrial St.
In front of 145 East Ohio Ave.
At the corner of N. First St. & Clover St.
In front of 360 N. Main St.
On the square (Intersection of Ohio Ave. & Main St.)
At the corner of S. Main St. & Salt St.
On S. Seneca St. half way between E. Ohio Ave. & Grant St.
On S. Main St. half way between the square & Salt St. (Grant St. area)
This system would stay in effect until the early 1960’s when radio communications would take over.
During the “roaring twenties” Marshal Mills would have his hands full with persons who would violate prohibition openly. The numerous “bootleggers” who were among the village immigrants didn’t make his job any easier.
Also hindering Marshal Mills efforts was the “Whiskey Special”, an Erie Railroad train that made a run every Saturday from Akron to Rittman carrying customers wanting their weekly supply from Rittman bootleggers. The train would drop the customers off in Rittman and then proceed into Sterling to turn around. This process would take about an hour, plenty of time for the customers to get their supply and catch the train back to Akron.
One of the more successful of the Rittman bootleggars was a man named Tony. Tony wore a long coat, both winter and summer. He dispensed flat, pint sized bottles of “spirits” from the numerous pockets that he had sewn into the inside of his coat.
On one occasion Marshal Mills caught Tony in the process of making a sale on Main St. Tony was arrested and taken to Mayor’s Court. Mayor William Shackleford set Tony’s trial for two weeks later and impounded Tony’s whiskey as evidence. When it came time for trial it was discovered that someone had drank all of the evidence! Mayor Shackleford had no choice but to dismiss the case for lack of evidence. It seems that Mayor Shackleford was never able to completely convince many of the townspeople that he wasn’t Tony’s accomplice!This incident, along with others, strained Marshal Mills’ tolerance. In 1932 he accepted a job as a deputy with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department. In 1936 he successfully ran for the office of Sheriff of Wayne County, a post he would hold for 13 years.Following Marshal Mills was Marshal John Bender from 1932 until 1935.
Marshal George Morgan served from 1935 until 1939 According to his son, Marshal Morgan was a big man and had difficulties in turning the village Harley-Davidson. When Marshal Morgan would turn the handlebars would hit his knees. To avoid having an accident Marshal Morgan could often be seen pushing the big motorcycle around corners and then getting back on to ride away until he had to make another turn.When Marshal Morgan was injured in a crash with the motorcycle the village purchased its first patrol car.
It was during the tenure of Marshal Morgan that the office made yet another move. This time they moved into the newly built city hall, built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). This is the same city hall that is in use today at 30 N. Main St.
In 1937 Marshal Morgan won the election for town Marshal. Marshal Morgan obtained 301 votes. His competitors, Frank Yoder & G. D. Hawkins each received 119 votes & 63 votes respectively.
The last marshal to serve was Charles Heffelman. Marshal Heffelman served from 1939 until his death in 1959. While working at the Boxboard (presently Rittman Paperboard – formerly Packaging Corporation of America (PCA)) Marshal Heffelman took a mail correspondence course from the Boston Institute of Criminology (1933).
In 1939 a man that Marshal Heffelman had arrested made a break for his freedom. A running gun battle between the man and Marshal Heffelman took place. The man outran Marshal Heffelman and hid in the swamps behind the Boxboard. Marshal Heffelman rounded up a posse of fifty men who assisted him in going into the swamp and capturing the fugitive.
Also in 1939 the newspaper printed a photo of Marshal Heffelman, Mayor Roy Baker & Officer R.V. Frederick standing beside the new Rittman police patrol car.
In August of 1948 a death on S. Main St. brought national attention to Rittman and its Marshal’s office. The death of Mrs. Birdie B. Gillette (age 34) was a feature story entitled, “Bizarre Riddle of The Bedroom Corpse” in the February 1949 issue of Real Detective magazine. The story relates how a man, Mr. Verlin Adkins (a married man), had been seeing Birdie on the side. On the night in question, according to Mr. Adkins, they had gone out as usual and returned to Birdie’s apartment around midnight and had gone to bed. The next thing Mr. Adkins knows the alarm goes off at 5:00 AM. He attempts to wake up Birdie, but she doesn’t wake up. Mr. Adkins gets scared, thinking that perhaps he had killed her in his sleep, he scribbles a note confessing to the murder of Birdie and feels to Huntington, West Virginia.
Adkins is eventually brought back to Wayne County and questioned about the death. He then says that he didn’t kill Birdie, he only thought that he may have killed her in his sleep. Adkins claims that he wrote the note with the intention of going out and committing suicide, but then later changed his mind.
The story in Real Detective never gave a disposition to the case, as it hadn’t gone to trial at the time of publication. It was in the Rittman Press where a final disposition was finally located. In the August 19, 1948 issue of the Rittman Press I located an article which stated that Wayne County Prosecutor Jack Critchfield had filed a charge of first degree murder against Verlin Adkins and that the County Coroner Dr. L.A. Adair had determined that Birdie Gillette had died of suffocation. Verlin Adkins had entered a plea of not guilty to the charge.In the September 9, 1948 issue of the Rittman Press it was reported that a Wayne County Grand Jury indicted Verlin Adkins on the charge. Finally on the front page of the Rittman Press dated November 4, 1949 the headlines read, “Adkins Freed of Death Charge”. According to the story, the State’s case against Verlin Adkins was dismissed in Common Pleas Court by Judge Walter J. Mougey for a lack of evidence to warrant a conviction of the charge.
The summer of 1949 must have been a very busy one for Marshal Heffelman. First there was a whistle stop visit by President Harry Truman. While in Rittman, President Truman was given a bag of salt bearing the name Truman Salt. Truman responded to the gift by saying,” This is great, I’ll never forget this, we’ll sprinkle it on the tails of the Republicans”!
According to the Rittman Press of June 16, 1949 Rittman’s Marshal’s Office was the headquarters for the second largest manhunt in the State’s history (to that point).
Two bank robbers, James Perry and Paul Boyes were known to have been in Rittman just a few days after they had robbed the North Fairfield Bank. Mrs. Della Watts was being detained by the F.B.I. in the Rittman jail after admitting to receiving some money from one of the bank robbers. Mrs. Watts, her son Millard and Thurman Adkins were all charged with aiding and harboring James Perry. Mr. Perry was obviously not a very competent criminal. Not only was he identified less than two hours after the bank robbery but in a burglary in Ashland County earlier in the year he had dropped his wallet in the gas station that he and Truman Watts had broken into. For that both he and Watts were under a $1,500 cash bond at the time Perry robbed the bank!
The front page of the June 23, 1949 Rittman Press exclaims, “Bank Robber Arrested In Miami, Florida”. Paul Boyes, the 17 year old accomplice of James Perry, was arrested by Miami police. While in their custody he admitted to them that he had been involved in the bank robbery here in Ohio. A full disposition on Perry, Mrs. Watts, Millard Watts and Thurman Adkins was never found.
In the June 26, 1952 the Rittman Press reported that an attempt will be made by the Marshal to curb “fast and reckless drivers” by getting the Sheriff’s Department’s radar unit to use in town at least once a week.
Mrs. Christina Walker of 161 E. Ohio Ave. filed a charge of disturbing the peace against one of her tenant’s, Sylvester Laurich, on June 29, 1953. The Marshal was unable to locate Mr. Laurich at that time. He was found on August 11, 1953 and arrested on the charge. At the time of his arrest both Rittman cells were full so Mr. Laurich was placed in the “transient room”. Laurich managed to remove a leg from a table in the room, he used the table leg to pry the bars off of the window and make good his escape…at least for a short time. He was picked up later the same day and taken to the Wayne County jail. Mr. Laurich was fined $20.00 for disturbing the peace and $300.00 for the malicious destruction of property. He was also sentenced to thirty days in the Wayne County jail.
At a Village Council meeting in March of 1954 Councilman Wade Rohrer “vigorously denounced the work of the Rittman Police Department under the leadership of Charles F. Heffelman as wholly inadequate”. According to the Rittman Press “City officials said that the vitriolic outburst was the worst that had been heard in council chambers in many years.” The report goes on to say that, “At the top of his voice, Rohrer cried that it was the duty of the department to see to the protection of Rittman’s children. From this he carried himself into a tirade on the lack of cooperation on Heffelman’s part in dealing with the Safety Committee, of which Rohrer is chairman, and further accused Heffelman of laziness in not reporting to council monthly on police affairs.”
Heffelman defended the job that he and the department have done. A short while after Rohrer’s outburst the subject of a new police car was brought before council for their attention. “This gave the councilman another opportunity to pursue his attack and he did so with renewed force.” Rohrer stated that the police don’t do enough with the one car that they have and that he would have to see far greater activity before he would go along with the expense of another vehicle.
ill Lafever thinks that Rittman is a good drinking town, at least that’s what he told a reporter from the Rittman Press in an October 1954 jailhouse interview. According to Bill (age 64) he came to Rittman with only $2.00 by hitching a ride from Sterling (a temperance town). According to Bill, all Sterling has is 3.2 beer and 7-Up! Bill began drinking at the South end of Rittman and drank most of the afternoon. Bill claimed that Rittman was a good town to drink in because we “had it all” beer, whiskey and wine. When the reporter asked Bill how he could have gotten drunk on $2.00 Bill replied that the guys in the bar will buy you lots of drinks so you don’t need a lot of money. Another reason Bill liked Rittman so much! The paper went on to say how people such as Bill were a problem for the city because they often can’t pay their fine which means that the Village must then transport them to the county jail where they can sit out their fine at the cost of Rittman residents.
In the spring of 1955 the Rittman Police Department along with officers from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, Medina County Sheriff’s Department, and the Stark County Sheriff’s Department managed to put a halt to a major armed robbery ring. These men were wanted in connection with a string of nine major armed robberies. Arrested were Robert Orton, John Watts, and Roy Boyes of Rittman. Warrants were also issued for Trent & Paul Boyes (both formally of Rittman) and Lee O’Higgins of Wadsworth.
Marshal Heffelman, who was born in Doylestown on October 14, 1898, would die of a heart attack while checking flood conditions at his farm near Sterling. It had been widely rumored that Chief Heffelman had been electrocuted while working on a sump pump. In a newspaper article Wayne County Coroner, Dr. L. A. Adair, ruled the Chief’s death as a heart attack & stated that there was no evidence that the Chief had been electrocuted.
As an indication of the immense respect the citizens of Rittman had for “Mr. Charlie” the paper also stated that local businesses would be closed from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM in observance of Chief Heffelman’s funeral.
In the latter part of 1999 I was talking to retired Wadsworth Police Chief Bernie Tighe. He told me of the respect that Charlie Heffelman commanded just by his presence.As a rookie Bernie was sent to Rittman to look for a guy that the Wadsworth police wanted. They thought he was living among the “railroad people” at the South end of town. Bernie said that as Charlie walked among the people they would just part to get out of his way. Chief Tighe described it much like the parting of the Red Sea ! He also recalled that as Charlie would talk to these people all he would hear was a “Yes sir, Mr. Charlie” or a “No sir, Mr. Charlie”.
At this point in the history of the department there is more information available. More newspaper clippings were saved and in general better records were kept.
It was in 1960 that Rittman was chartered as a City in both Wayne & Medina Counties.
The April 21, 1960 issue of the Rittman Press reported that Kenneth Watts (21) was arrested by members of the State Highway Patrol & was being held in Wooster after shooting Mrs. Lewis Wagner at a ball field in Rittman & then killing Mr. & Mrs. William Fender in Warwick. At the time of his arrest Watts stated that he had “blacked out” three or four days previously & doesn’t remember a thing since then.
The paper also reported that Merle Yoder (46) had been arrested by Chief Merle Heffelman for threatening Mayor O. A. Houglan . Mr. Yoder & Mayor Houghlan are neighbors & recently the Mayor found Mr. Yoder guilty of driving while intoxicated. Since that time Mr. Yoder had been threatening the Mayor. The police were called when neighbors observed Yoder sitting on his front porch with a shotgun. Mr. Yoder was taken to the Wayne County jail & then to Apple Creek State Hospital for observation.
In August of 1960 Chief Merle Heffelman & Officer Sam Strimlin conducted a raid on a “disorderly house” located at 141 East Ohio Ave. The raid, which was executed at 2:00 AM, resulted in the arrest of ten people and the questioning of twenty others. One of the women charged with “living in a disorderly house” was fined $25.00 and court cost but the fine was suspended on the condition that she leave town immediately. The Chief stated that an unusual amount of traffic on the night of the raid was what prompted officers to conduct the raid.
In January of 1961 the department added it’s fifth full time officer (it’s also reported that the department has several part-time officers as well). The department also had two patrol cars at that time.
Members of the department were: Chief Merle Heffelman, Beecher Noble, Joe Figura, Sam Strimlin & Dwain Acker.
By the end of March 1961 Chief Heffelman had demonstrated a need for an all night dispatcher. Council agreed…but there was no money for one. City Manager Charles Mann figured that it would cost over $7,000 a year to hire two dispatchers who would each work eight hour shifts. It was also pointed out that in November the Ohio Central Telephone Company, which currently handles all police & fire calls, would no longer handle those duties. A situation arose recently when a woman on N. Metzger Ave. called to report a prowler. The officer on duty was in the Sunset Heights area of the city and wasn’t able to be contacted for over twenty minutes. The utility poles, which hold the “call lights” throughout the city, are all located East of the football stadium. So an officer in the West end of town can not be reached until he comes closer to the down town area & spots the red lights.
Council must have made this situation a priority because by early October, the paper reports that Rittman’s new police & fire dispatching system is in effect. The team of four women handles calls from 5:00 pm until 8:00 am. During regular working hours the City Hall clerical staff handles the calls. The first four dispatchers hired by the city were Twila Fox, Pat Smotherman, Mary McElroy & Doris Hummel.
The only incident located for 1962 was one related to me by former part-time officer Robert Garretson. According to Mr. Garretson, during the winter of 1962 he was working alone one night because all of the full time officers had gone to Akron for a Christmas party. He received a call of a fight at the Rittman House (later known as Dom’s). When he arrived he noticed that it was very crowded & so he decided to leave his gun in the patrol car. As soon as he entered the bar he was struck from all four sides at once. When he finally freed himself from the mob & got back outside he was wearing only his socks & shoes! Mr. Garretson got in the patrol car, went home, got dressed, went back to the Rittman House and this time with his gun in his hand re-entered and arrested four of his attackers.
A report to the City Manager listed the police activities for 1962 & 1963 as follows:
Accidents investigated 96 97
Offense & Incident Reports 49 75
D.W.I. 49 66
Traffic Light 13 15
Intoxication 29 34
Open Bottle 10 7
Underage Drinking 1 1
Left Of Center 1 2
Improper Registration 4 6
Spirituous Liquor 0 1
Cruelty To Animals 0 1
Stealing Hub Caps 1 1
Speed 92 62
Mufflers 11 22
Loitering 1 3
Reckless Operation 16 28
Stop Sign 44 4
No Operators License 9 23
Animals At Large 2 2
Larceny By Trick 0 1
Indecent Exposure 0 1
Leaving The Scene 2 6
Assault & Battery 13 26
False Statement 1 3
Disturbing The Peace 16 27
Disorderly Conduct 0 5
Resisting Arrest 4 13
Destruction Of Property 11 3
Fine monies received 1962 = $7,512.50
Fine monies received 1963 = $7,798.56
The year 1964 was a tumultuous one for the police department.
In June Officers Art Troyer & Derrell Woodward fired several shots at a fleeing stolen vehicle. The vehicle was stopped & the operator of the vehicle, Tom McCallister, 18, of Wadsworth was apprehended.
Later in the year Troyer & Woodward were the focus of a civil suit filed by Raymond Lance. In his suit Lance alleged that Officers Troyer & Woodward had beaten him into unconsciousness. Lance reportedly received his injuries while resisting arrest. Lance reportedly bit & kicked both officers during his arrest & was acquitted on the grounds that he was an epileptic. Lance was seeking $5,000 in compensatory damages & $10,000 in punitive damages because his injuries are permanent. No record of the disposition of this case was ever found.
Then things began to get even worse for the police department. At a council meeting a citizen began with a complaint on the way he & others in the city were being treated by the police officers. He didn’t believe that, in the two incidents that he was personally aware of, the officer did a very good job & was not at all professional. He believed that perhaps the fault was with the way the department was being run & supervised.
Chief Heffelman went on the defensive stating that the patrolman involved in both incidents had only 13 days of experience when these incidents took place. The Chief went on to say that Akron P.D. trains their officers for ten weeks & Cleveland P.D. for twelve weeks prior to putting them out on the street. (as a point of interest, in 2000 the current standard for state certification as a police officer is 550 hours of training) A four-week training program is available at Western Reserve but it costs $350.00 but the city couldn’t afford to send him. The Chief went on to say that if their levy fails perhaps a community organization could sponsor the training for the officers in order to prevent such incidents in the future. Chief Heffelman reminded council that he had been promised another officer two years ago but due to a lack of funds one was never hired.
Then, in late September, it peeked. City Manager Charles Mann fired Chief Heffelman & then resigned himself. Patrolman Art Troyer was named as acting Chief of Police.
The City Manager charged Chief Heffelman with being incompetent, insubordinate and did not have the ability to administer his duties. The City Manager stated that it was an accumulation of incidents which lead to his decision to fire Heffelman. Mr. Mann stated that he offered the Chief an opportunity to step down but the Chief refused his offer.
The Chief had plans on fighting his dismissal through the civil service commission. In the mean time the town got behind the Chief. There were letters written to the editor of the paper claiming that Troyer was a friend of Mann’s & this was a way for Mann to put a friend in the Chief’s position prior to his leaving. There were several petitions circulating around the city for the Chief reinstatement. Then at one point a member of the civil service commission resigns. This left the city looking for a City Manager, Chief of Police, city clerk, a police officer, a bookkeeper and a civil service commission member all at once!
In early October Chief Heffelman was reinstated as Chief. A compromise agreement was made between the Chief & the City Manager. As part of that agreement Chief Heffelman had to acknowledge the validity of certain specific charges which brought about his removal from office. He also had to comply with Mr. Mann’s decisions for the improvement of the police department. In order to facilitate these improvements the Ohio Association of Chief’s of Police will assist Chief Heffelman in setting up a records keeping system, police procedures manual & general organization assistance.
Once the Chief was reinstated Ptl. Troyer submitted his resignation from the department. Then, a short time later, decided to stay on at the urging of some citizens. This was mid-October & the end of a very rocky year for the department.
The city’s budget for 1965 was $343,954. Of which the police department received the highest amount, 14%, or $62,690.
The salaries for police personnel were:
Chief of police: $6,340.00
The City Manager received $9,250.00
Apparently by 1966 the need for more officers on the street was obvious. In May of 1966 the department hired five new patrolmen in response to the resignation of three other officers. The new officers were, Perry Lamson of Rittman, Eric Murphy of Wooster, Jim Higgins of Rittman, Larry Hudson of Wadsworth & Jim Deuble of Parma.
In September Officers Ulys Gunnels & Perry Lamson observed a vehicle parked behind Higy’s , a bar on E. Ohio Ave., which matched the description of a vehicle that had been used in a bank robbery in Apple Creek. A call for assistance went out & in a short time, officers from Doylestown, the Medina County & Wayne County Sheriff’s Departments had the bar surrounded. The officers were right, it was the vehicle used in the robbery but the bank robber, Tom Robinson of Wooster, was long gone, having paid another bar patron $10.00 to drive him to Barberton.
The city must have learned their lesson from 1964 about putting untrained officers on the street. In early October Ptl. Eric Murphy & Ptl. Jim Deuble graduated from the Summit County Sheriff’s training academy. At that time it was 120 hours of training. Both Murphy & Deuble graduated in the top five academically.
While having these two officers graduate in the top five made us look good, you have to take the bad with the good & one of the most embarrassing incidents to ever come to light happened later in October. October 25, 1966 to be exact. It was on that day that one of the newest officers, Patrick Benchoff, shot Ptl. Eric Murphy while the two were in the police department. Murphy was struck mid-sternum and the bullet, a .38 Special caliber lead round nose, exited his back about waist level. Officer Murphy was taken by Gillman Ambulance to Barberton Citizens Hospital where he was admitted to the intensive care unit in serious condition. Amazingly enough the bullet struck nothing vital & Ptl. Murphy would recover & return to work.
Just how this incident happened depends on who you talk to or what you read. The newspaper states that Officer Benchoff was going off duty & putting his weapon in a locker when it accidentally discharged. The article went on to say that Chief Heffelman stressed that the incident was an accident. Officers that I have spoken to, who were working for the department at the time of the incident, insist that Officers Murphy & Benchoff were playing “quick draw” against one another in the police department when the incident took place.
In February of 1967 Ptl. Eric Murphy resigned from the police department. Jim Chambers was re-hired to take Ptl. Murphy’s place.
Also in February, Ptl. Perry Lamson was assaulted by 17 year old Carl Wellman after Lamson prevented Wellman from re-entering “The Staff” without paying admission. Lamson told the newspaper that Wellman grabbed him by the throat & wrestled him to the ground. Lamson gained control of Wellman & arrested him. At the police department Wellman ran out & refused to stop after several warning shots were fired.
March new patrol car radios were installed. These gave the officers the ability to communicate with Wadsworth, Orrville & Wooster.
In August Ptl. Jim Chamber was saved by his seat belt. He was responding to a burglar alarm in a rainstorm. His patrol car skidded on the wet pavement of Sterling Ave. & he struck a tree. The patrol car was heavily damaged but Officer Chambers received only cuts & bruises.
Due to the growth of the city & the cramped quarters of the police department in city hall, council voted to purchase the building at 33 East Ohio Avenue (the former Rich Motors). It will be renovated to accommodate both the police & fire departments.
On December 1, 1967 Chief Heffelman suffered a heart attack while driving in Sterling.
Another somewhat embarrassing incident happened in the spring of 1968. Ptl. Jim Deuble was in pursuit of a speeder out of Rittman & requested assistance from Wadsworth P.D. over the radio. On a curve between Rittman & Wadsworth the two patrol cars struck each other head on! The speeder had given both of them the slip! The Rittman car had moderate damage & no one was injured.
May the officers had requested a $1,000 across the board wage increase. City council didn’t waste any time telling the officers that the raise was not going to become a reality. They pointed out that the officers had received a raise in January. At that time starting pay was raised from $5,400 a year to $5,700. Officers with two years on the department received $6,900 a year, which had been raised from $6,500.
Apparently the loss of the raise didn’t sit well with the officers & resignations began to come in. Ptl. Kenneth King & Ptl. Pat Benchoff were the first to go. Shortly after them it was Sgt. Larry Hudson, who had just been promoted seven months earlier. Next it was Ptl. Perry Lamson to leave. He was followed shortly by Ptl. Jim Deuble. This left the department very short handed in a brief period of time. All of these resignations came within a two-month period.
The city immediately went about hiring other officers. Orrin Grosjean of Wooster & Billy Pelfrey of Wadsworth were the first to be hired. They were followed by Ulys Gunnels (who had been an auxiliary officer with RPD since 1963), and Rodney Riggs of Rittman.
The police department moved from city hall to 3 East Ohio Ave. early in May. Shortly thereafter they had their first escape…a fifteen-year-old girl! The girl was being held for juvenile authorities. She made her escape through a window, which was 10-1/2” X 25” & fifteen feet off of the ground. She was apprehended shortly after her escape.
In the January 10, 1969 city council agenda it indicates that council was to write and accept an Auxiliary Police Ordinance. Council is to set aside $2,500 in a separate account to cover the use of auxiliary patrolmen due to personnel shortages in dispatch, traffic & crowd control & other similar situations not requiring the use of a qualified police officer. The rate of pay is established at $1.50 an hour.
ouncil goes on to appoint the following four men who are interested in assisting the police department in the capacity of auxiliary patrolman:
Robert Hoover, Atley Hoover, Virgil Ullman & Don Burkhart
On September 13, 1970 Officers Rod Riggs & Billy Pelfrey were injured in a crash while in pursuit. Riggs & Pelfrey were on patrol & observed a vehicle driven by James Mead (18). The chase began shortly after midnight when the officers saw the vehicle speed through the square. As they attempted to stop the vehicle it fled. It ran through the city alleys with its lights off in an attempt to lose the patrol car. Finally it headed west, out of the city. The vehicle then turned south on Shorle Rd. & crossed the railroad tracks. As the two-man patrol car crossed the tracks it broke a rear wheel suspension & the car rolled over.
Officer Riggs was slightly injured & Officer Pelfrey was taken to Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital with rib injuries. The officers were able to call for assistance by using their car radio. Mead abandoned his car in the woods.
Mead later turned himself into Rittman Police and thirty traffic violations were filed against him in Wooster Municipal Court. The Ritman patrol car was totally destroyed.
By 1971 it appears that the city is starting to understand the need to upgrade the police department. In February the police department took possession of two new patrol cars from Freed Ford in Rittman. The city paid $5,550 for each car after trade in.
In March City Manager Robert Trimble suggested to city council that there be some remodeling of the interior of the police department, partially for dispatcher security concerns. Also discussed was a new telephone system for the department to increase efficiency. It would be an additional monthly cost of $14.35 and would “apply some strain on the account” but they felt that the added security for the citizens to be worth it & off set the expense.
The purchase of a Speedgun was given the nod by council in October. This was basically a hand held radar unit, which the city purchased for the department at a cost of $995.00.
Early in 1972 two more full time officers were added to the roster, William Alexander of Barberton & Stephen Thornton of Doylestown.
As early as 1972 it was noted that there are times departments are in over their head & run into situations that they just do not have the resources to meet. It was because of that that the Tri-County Tactical Unit was formed. This unit began as a mutual aid pact in March of 1970. It comprised the resources of departments in Wayne, Medina & Ashland counties.
In September, members of the department were treated to a view of the “police car of the future” built by Chrysler for the Federal Sign & Signal Co. It was a 1972 Plymouth with a 497 cubic inch engine capable of speeds up to 195 miles per hour! It was equipped with a VASCAR speed recording device, a five channel mobile radio (our present cars in 2000 have a mobile radio with a capacity of 24 channels – we only have 19 channels programmed in them!). The “patrol car of the future” was also fitted with mercury filled stabilizer bars, a double reinforced roof – with a skylight, and a special push bumper for removing disabled cars from the roadway.
In late 1974 the department added two more full time officers bringing the total of full time officers to an all time high of nine.
Hired were Larry Boggs of Orrville & Don Powell Jr. of Norton.
At that time the department also had two part-time officers & five dispatchers.
Several local businesses & industries provided the $2,300.00 necessary for Rittman P.D. to purchase a Smith & Wesson Model 1000 breathalyzer. At that time it was the state of the art in breath testing equipment & Rittman was the only department in Wayne County to have one. In fact at the time Rittman purchased our machine we were only the 12th department in the state to own one. Four of our officers were designated to operate the machine & be licensed by the state. Officers Orrin Grosjean, Ron Valentine, & William Alexander were designated as operators. Sgt. Ulys Gunnels was designated as the senior operator.
In January 1975 Rittman officers were instrumental in capturing an armed robbery suspect who had also disarmed & (for a brief time) kidnapped another officer.
Roy Young, of Creston, had robbed the Lawsons store on Lafayette Rd. in Medina about 1:45 PM. A witness obtained the license number of Young’s vehicle & gave it to Medina police. A short time later Lafayette Township police Chief Del Rambo observed the Young vehicle & stopped it. Chief Rambo placed Young in his patrol car & began to question him. Young pulled his gun on Chief Rambo. Young took Rambo’s gun & ordered him out of the patrol car. Young then disabled the patrol car by pulling all of the spark plug wires. Young put Rambo in his car & drove off. A short distance down the road Rambo jumped from Young’s car & Young continued on.
A patrol car from Spencer P.D. came by & Chief Rambo flagged it down, joined them & continued the chase of Young. By now officers from Spencer, Lodi, Westfield , Seville & the Ohio State Highway Patrol had joined in the hunt for Young. Young had now gotten into Wayne County & a Wayne County deputy observed him on SR-604 headed towards Rittman. Rittman P.D. was alerted & set up a roadblock. Rittman officers arrested Young at their roadblock about 4:00 PM without incident. Young was turned over to the Medina County Sheriff’s Department where he was held on charges of armed robbery, grand theft & kidnapping.
In January a former dispatcher, James Markley, dropped a lawsuit he had filed against the city. Markley claimed that he had been illegally laid off by the city. However, since being laid off Markley had obtained a position as a full time officer with the Doylestown Police Department. Since he was making more money as a Doylestown officer than he would have as a Rittman dispatcher the suit was dropped.
March brought more “high-tech” crime fighting tools to Rittman. The department obtained their first LEADS (Law Enforcement Automated Data System) terminal. This terminal permitted Rittman officers to run their own registration checks, drivers license checks, and enter warrants and stolen property as well. It also gave them the capability to send instant messages to law enforcement agencies across the United States.
Prior to LEADS Rittman officers had three options if they wanted to see to whom a particular car was registered. They could look through the book in the department, which listed only the local registrations in numerical order. If that failed, they could call Hershey & Rohrer (the local BMV clerks) who issued the registrations to see if they had a record of the plate. Lastly, if the officer needed the information in a hurry he could call Norton P.D. (who had a LEADS terminal) and ask them to run the registration for him.
On May 3, 1976 members of the Rittman Employees Association (REA) began informational picketing of City Hall. REA members were not happy with the status of negotiations with the city.
Later in the year the city purchased two new patrol cars. They were white Ford LTD’s and cost the city $4,130.00 each with the trade in!
The March 29, 1977 issue of the Daily Record contained an article on the different uniforms worn by the county’s law enforcement agencies. Rittman was basic blue & gray. We wore navy blue pants with a gray shirt, which had black epaulets. The article stated that a new officer would receive a $300.00 clothing allowance in addition to his starting base pay of $10,000.00. It went on to say that after the first year the annual clothing allowance for an officer would be $200.00 annually.
In May the department added four new full time officers to its roster, Ptl. Greg Grimes, Ptl. Mark Harouff, Ptl. Dan Brown & Ptl. Robert Huckleberry.
Four Medina County inmates escaped from the jail on July 17th. One of the escapees was from Rittman & they came into town. A manhunt was begun with both departments going door to door. A van from Hartzler’s Floors on N. Main St. was stolen & later wrecked on Decourcey Rd at W. Sunset. The manhunt continued into Sterling.
On September 21st yet another full time officer was added to the roster. Ptl. Mike Burg came to the Rittman Police Department from Norton P.D. where he had been a dispatcher for 4-1/2 years.
The beginning of 1978 produced the end of an era. In February Chief Merle Heffelman announced his retirement. This ended a thirty-year career for the Chief who started with the department in 1948, was promoted to Sergeant in 1957 & Chief in 1959 upon the death of his father.
City Manager Roger Herman would appoint Ptl. Larry Boggs, a three-year member of the department as acting Chief.
To maintain the department’s current roster officer Byron Lyle was hired in April.
In May the Ninth District Court of Appeals upheld the city’s firing of Officer Ron Valentine & Billy Pelfrey for illegal actions during a work strike in September of 1976. Pelfrey & Valentine drove police vehicle to the city garage, put them inside, rendered them inoperable & then refused to tell city authorities where the cars were located.
Under Chief Boggs & City Manager Roger Herman the department took on a new look. The officers went from the gray shirts in 1978 to navy blue shirts that matched the pants.
City Manager Herman wanted our patrol cars to be more visible, and more visible they became. We got full light bars replacing the old “Visabar” and the cars got a stripe job. The white LTD’s were striped with the city colors from front to back. There was a thin black stripe on either side of a wide red stripe. The Rittman-Ohio city logo was on the doors in red & on the front fenders was the word police in red reflective letters. They were hard to miss & rapidly obtained the nickname of “circus wagons”.
On June 5th City Manager Herman made Chief Boggs appointment to Chief official & Larry Boggs became the third Chief of the department.
On July 24th Ross Riggs joined the department as a patrolman. His appointment was to fill a vacancy left when Ptl. Robert Huckleberry resigned May 23, 1978.
In July the department added two more full time officers brining the total of full time officers to nine. On July 1st Steven Letostak was sworn in & on July 10th Calvin Undercoffer was sworn in.
The department continued to grow in August when Ptl. Jim Little was sworn in on the 22nd . Jim was the 10th full time officer on the department.
October 16th the MEDWAY drug enforcement agency along with officers from Rittman P.D., & Wayne County Sheriff’s Department conducted two raids in Rittman. One on Gish Rd. & the other on Home St. Confiscated was one and one half bales of marijuana (51 pounds), ten one ounce bags of marijuana, and ounce of angel dust, amphetamines, barbiturates, and cocaine as well as drug related paraphernalia. The street value of the drugs was estimated to be $41,000.00. Six adults and two juveniles were charged with numerous crimes in connection with the raids.
In December William Bunt shot & killed Larry Hershberger at a house on Salt St. Hershberger was shot in the upper abdomen with a 16 gauge shotgun . The same weekend the department also investigated a stabbing incident in Dom’s (a bar on S. Main St.) in which two people were cut as well as a fight at the Sleepy Owl (a bar on E. Ohio Ave.). In that incident a New Jersey truck driver was injured sending him to Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital for treatment.
The stabbing & the bar fight were somewhat typical of the weekends that the officers faced in the late 70’s early 80’s. At that time Rittman had about nine bars and none seemed to be hurting for business.
Early in 1979 the department began a law enforcement Explorer’s Post #2566. This was a program to aquatint young people interested in a career in law enforcement with the day to day operations of a police department. Explorers were given our old gray shirts for uniforms & we ordered special Explorer patches for the sleeves. The Explorers were given tours of other law enforcement agencies, had lectures from law enforcement professionals in different aspects of criminal justice. While the program didn’t last all that long we did have three of our original ten members go on to careers in law enforcement. Mark Waggy became a part-time officer with Rittman P.D. & later went on to go full time. Jim Stanley became an officer & detective with the Cuyahoga Falls police department and Rich Nester became an Ohio State University officer.
With our progressive new City Manager & our young chief, a renovation of the interior of the department began to accommodate ten officers & our communications center. The basement was made accessible to us & a secure evidence room was built as well as a locker room and a squad room. Upstairs the communications area was revamped and offices were built for the Sergeants & an interview room. A training room was built upstairs near the booking room & cell area.
In March one of our highly visible “circus wagons” was severely damaged. A call came in of a suspicious vehicle in the Failawn Ave. area. As Ptl. Grimes approached the area the car drove through the lawn in an attempt to elude Ptl. Grimes. The chase began Northbound on N. Main St. Officer Bill Alexander set up a roadblock using his patrol car on N. Main St. at Eastern Rd. The car being pursued rammed the drivers side rear quarter panel of Ptl. Alexander’s patrol car.
In April City Manager Roger Herman announced that after a number of years the city would again be hiring part-time patrolmen. This was an attempt by the city to reduce overtime costs as well as increase shift strength. The first part-time officer to be hired was Tom Watkins.
Ptl. Ross Riggs approached the city administration in June of 1979 requesting funding for a police K-9 unit to be used primarily as a “drug sniffer”. Ptl. Riggs also went to local business & industry in an attempt to solicit funds for the project.
Bolstering Riggs claim was a drug raid made just two months later. In late August Rittman officers along with agents from MEDWAY executed a search warrant at 76-1/2 E. Ohio Ave. Recovered in the search was a large quantity of PCP, marijuana, amphetamines, barbiturates and cocaine along with other drug paraphernalia.
In December dispatcher Alan Wilson was riding with Ptl. Ross Riggs on third shift (11:00pm/7:00am). They received a call from a State Highway Patrol Trooper who had stopped a car on SR-57 at Eastern Rd. An elderly passenger in the car was experiencing chest pains & having difficulty breathing. An ambulance was dispatched but Riggs & Wilson arrived prior to the ambulance. The man was now in cardiac arrest & Wilson administered CPR. The man regained consciousness & then again went into cardiac arrest. Dispatcher Wilson again administered CPR successfully & brought the man back a second time. The ambulance arrived & transported the man to Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital. The attending ER physician there confirmed that the man had indeed suffered a heart attack & the actions taken by Dispatcher Wilson undoubtedly saved his life. At a subsequent city council meeting Dispatcher Wilson was given three letters of commendation for his actions. One from City Manager Roger Herman, one from Chief Boggs & the third from Lt. Sheldon Senek Wooster post commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Dispatcher Wilson not only went on to have a career in emergency medical service, he later became Chief of Rittman E.M.S.
1979 was also the year that the department began its monthly firearms training program. Each month members of the department are required to shoot a course of fire in order to keep their firearms proficiency up to par. It wouldn’t be for a few years that Rittman P.D. obtained their own firearms training facility so in the beginning we used Wadsworth P.D.’s range.
This was also the first year that an “Officer of the Year” award was given out. This was a program initiated by Chief Boggs. Each officer votes for every other officer on a scale from one to ten in twenty-five different aspects of the job. The officer with the highest cumulative score wins the award.
The first winner of the award was Ptl. Calvin Undercoffer.
A wage dispute again caused a rift between members of the police department & the city administration in March of 1980. Shortly after a meeting with acting City Manager Roger Hessidence members of the police department staged a sick out, leaving only the Chief & Sergeant to cover the city.
The officers believed that the city was going to approve a salary schedule as opposed to the present merit raise system. They were later informed that the acting city manager would not approve the schedule, which is what led to the sick out. The sick out ended about 40 hours after it began & officers returned to duty. The sick out apparently got the attention of city council because the following month an ordinance was passed granting not only the police department but other city workers raises based upon years of service rather than merit. At the time the top pay for a patrolman was $15,950.00.
In an attempt to raise awareness among parents of the seriousness of the drug problem that Rittman faced, Chief Boggs began to have a MEDWAY agent speak to the different civic groups in town. His message was clear…admit the drug problem exists. Based upon the recent drug raids we had made the word had to get out, and this was one way to do it.
City Manager Maxine Oglesbee announced to City Council that Chief Boggs had been accepted to attend the 127th session of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. In law enforcement circles the FBI National Academy is known as the “West Point of Law Enforcement” and only a select few who apply are accepted.
Rittman is the home of Morton Salt & their motto is “When it rains, it pours”. Our dispatcher must have felt that way one night early in August. At 5:30 PM on a Saturday night lightening struck our base radio antenna rendering the base station (police & fire) inoperable. Not a major problem, the county’s emergency communications van was called for…then it began to pour! A vehicle Northbound on S. Main St. attempted to pass another, the driver lost control & the vehicle jumped a three foot retaining wall & went entirely into an unoccupied building injuring the driver & passenger. Then, sixteen minutes later, a train derails just West of the S. Main St. crossing. As it does the trains fuel tanks are ripped open & gallons of diesel fuel are being spilled out. The Ohio EPA has to be called in.
One of the most unusual calls of the year came late in December. It was on a cold (15oF) Saturday night when some kids came on station to report that a man was on top of the three hundred foot United Telephone Co. microwave tower at the corner of N. Main St. & Sheldon Ave. When officers arrived they found the man standing on a platform at the top. He had apparently been drinking & climbed the tower. Mental Health workers were called & began to talk with him. After about four hours he admitted that he wanted to come down but was cold & afraid. Numerous ideas about how to extract the man from the platform were talked over. Finally a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter was called. They performed a textbook rescue that took only a few minutes. They hovered over the tower & a litter was lowered from the helicopter into the tower. The man got in & was raised to the helicopter & flown to Wadsworth Municipal Airport where Gillman ambulance was waiting to transport him to Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital. He was held there & treated for hypothermia & frostbite. The entire rescue, once the Coast Guard was on the scene, took less than five minutes.
The second officer of the year award went to Ptl. Mike Burg.
In January Ptl. Calvin Undercoffer was attempting to interview a man in his yard regarding a traffic violation. The man was being very uncooperative & was finally placed under arrest. At about the same time his brother appeared from behind the house & threw a log at Ptl. Undercoffer striking him in the head. Officer Riggs, who had arrived to back up Ptl. Undercoffer, chased the man who ran into the house. Ptl. Undercoffer was transported to Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital where he was treated for a laceration to his head & released. The two brothers holed up in their house for a short time before surrendering to police.
Early in March Rittman officers with the cooperation of MEDWAY, Wooster P.D., Wadsworth P.D. & the Wayne County Sheriff’s Dept. raided 283 Diane St. in Rittman. Found during the search was three ounces of PCP, a pound of hashish, amphetamines & marijuana as well as the usual miscellaneous drug paraphernalia. Then, just a few days later Wayne County Grand Jury indictments were handed down against twelve people for drug violations. Two of which were Rittman residents. These particular charges included large quantities of PCP, LSD, & quaaludes.
In April Rittman P.D. received an LEAA grant for $18,750.00 (Rittman’s share was $3,750.00). With this money the department purchased an Intoxilyzer (breath testing equipment) as well as videotaping equipment to be used in the booking process.
By early 1981, it was obvious that a second Sergeant position was needed. A civil Service test was given to fill the position. Topping the list was Ptl. Calvin Undercoffer who was promoted to the second Sergeants position in June.
It was also noted that the City’s communications system was in bad need of repair and/or replacement. After much discussion city council agreed to revamp the entire emergency services radio system. Boylan & Cannon Electronics was awarded the bid of $90,500.00 to do the job. By September the system had been installed & was up & running. This system included new mobile radios, new base stations for police, fire & EMS as well as new portable radios (HT’s) and pagers.
On Christmas Eve Ted Vance of Salt St. was shot & killed by William McDowell. Vance was shot in the abdomen with a 20 gauge shotgun and was transported by Rittman EMS to Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. McDowell was charged with the death of Ted Vance.
Late in December the Daily Record reports that the final steps have been taken to form a branch of the Wayne County Municipal Court in Rittman. This would terminate the jurisdiction of the mayor to hear cases & eliminate the Rittman Mayor’s Court system presently in effect. This was yet another move forward for the Rittman Police Department.
The 1981 Officer of the Year was Sgt. Calvin Undercoffer.
January 1982 saw the end of an era when Rittman Mayor’s court was abolished & our own branch of the county municipal court was established. The judges would come to Rittman on a weekly basis at first & then on a biweekly basis later to hear cases.
Due to the usual “clientele” that the courts had from our DWI arrests and bar fight arrests one of the judges was prompted to ask his bailiff if he thought that he could get a police escort from the Rittman city limits to his office in city hall!
In April a couple who were having a little domestic problem apparently forgot about their “hobby” when they called police to settle their dispute. Ptl. Greg Grimes responded to the scene & as he was talking to one of the persons involved, in the kitchen of the residence, he noticed 14 marijuana seedlings growing in pots under a grow light. Looks like they had more trouble than they thought!
As a fundraiser for both the police & fire departments a donkeyball (softball) game was scheduled for early June. In an attempt to get more people out, one officer managed to get Cleveland Browns center Tom DeLeone to play for the police team. The police department won the game 4-1 but according to the Daily Record the real winners were the crowd.
Three days after Christmas officers were called to a domestic disturbance on Industrial St. Shortly after arriving, Sgt. Ulys Gunnels had a shotgun pulled on him by the male. They were in a hallway of the residence. The other officer got the rest of the family out of the house to safety. At one point the male chambered a round into the shotgun as he was holding it on Sgt. Gunnels. After a brief time Gunnels was able to convince the man to put down the shotgun. He did & was promptly arrested.
In November Ptl. Ross Riggs circulated a petition asking the members of the department what they thought they should do if layoffs were to happen within the department. City Manager Maxine Oglesbee suspended Riggs from the department for fifteen days for circulating the petition.
In 1982 the Officer of the Year was Ptl. Ross Riggs.
In February Ptl. Riggs suspension was settled out of court. The matter was dropped & all material pertaining to the suspension was to be removed from Riggs personnel file.
Things continued to get better for Ptl. Riggs. In April he was promoted to the second Sergeants position which had been vacant after Sgt. Calvin Undercoffer resigned in September 1982.
Due to cutbacks & the failure of a tax levy in November of 1982 Rittman officers often found themselves working shifts alone. This came to light when a local journalist did a story and highlighted the fact that very recently, working alone, Ptl. Jim Little had faced an extremely intoxicated male bent on killing himself with a knife. The man had a hunting knife with a six-inch blade. In the long run the situation turned out favorable for all involved. Because the levy failed the departments overtime budget was set at $6,000.00 and $12,600.00 was spent! The budget remained the same for 1983. The reduced staffing also extended response time of the officers as well as reduced the time for follow up of cases and investigations.
In May Chief Boggs took the problem in front of City Council. One councilman, Bob Stewart, stated, “I don’t think anybody listening to Officer Little could fail to be deeply impressed with the danger, but we have to look at practicalities.” It was a rough year for the department.
The Officer of the Year for 1983 was Ptl. Mike Burg
The evening of January 19, 1984 is one that will remain with Chief Larry Boggs for the rest of his life. On that evening he was working with Ptl. Greg Grimes. Both were on station when the call came in at 7:04 PM. Main-Way Market (412 N. Main St.) was being robbed by two men. The robbers, Leo O’Higgins & James Walling demanded money. They received the contents of all three registers. By the time the robbers had gotten back to their car both Boggs & Grimes were on the scene & in the parking lot. They rammed Boggs’ patrol car & crossed the lawn to get back onto the street. Both officers pursued the car Southbound on Main St. They turned left (Eastbound) onto Grant St. & at the bottom of Grant St. at the curve they lost control of their car & crashed into a parking barrier at the Depot. Both men exited the car & O’Higgins began running. Boggs, who was right behind them, also exited his car. A brief gunfight ensued. O’Higgins was struck dead center with the bullet passing through his aorta, after running approximately 75 yards he fell, with his pistol in one hand & a Main-Way Market bag of money in his other hand. James Walling immediately surrendered to Boggs & was taken into custody. Rittman EMS was called to the scene for O’Higgins but there was little they could do. O’Higgins was transported to Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Walling was taken to the Wayne County jail & arraigned on a charge of aggravated robbery & held in lieu of $50,000.00 bond.
By February 3rd county prosecutor Keith Shearer had completed his investigation & found that the actions of Chief Boggs were “fully justified”.
In early February Wallings plead guilty to aggravated robbery & assault on a police officer. He did not contest any of the evidence presented against him. Judge John H. Schuler told Walling, “You have forfeited your right to live in society”. He was sentenced to 15 – 25 years. However prior to that sentence taking effect Walling must serve six years on the weapons offense (using a firearm in the commission of a felony).
In mid-January Ptl. Mike Burg had an interesting DWI one night. As he was patrolling Eastbound on Salt St. he observed a set of headlights coming towards him bouncing very rapidly. Officer Burg noticed that it was a pickup truck Westbound on the railroad tracks! Ptl. Burg pulled into the PCA South parking lot in an attempt to stop the truck. The driver of the pickup saw the patrol car & attempted to turn around. That’s when his trouble began. The truck jumped the rail & now the truck’s frame was astride the rails & it wasn’t going anywhere. When Burg asked the driver if he knew where he was, the driver replied that he thought he was on SR-3! A Westbound freight train was stopped about a mile short of hitting the truck & was held there for about 90 minutes while a wrecker wrestled the pickup off of the tracks. The driver was arrested for DWI.
Late in January City Manager Julian Suso announced that a lay off in the police department was necessary due to “budget adjustments”. Ptl. Greg Grimes who, as a seven-year veteran of the department, had accumulated some seniority volunteered for the layoff. This action reduced the department size, again, to eight full time officers.
In mid-March the officers asked to open contract negotiations with the city. This was based upon the Ohio Collective Bargaining Act, which was due to go into effect on April 1, 1984. City Manager Julian Suso stated that he felt that it would be “premature & imprudent” at this time to open contract negotiations.
A fire in a house on Medina St. led to a long prison sentence for an ex-Rittmanite, who had recently returned to the area after serving a sentence for aggravated burglary & aggravated arson. Sgt. Riggs, who was trained as an arson investigation, managed to talk to the suspect. Through an intensive investigation he got the career criminal convicted of burglary, arson & petty theft. He was sent back to prison for a period of 15-25 years.
At an August 27th City Council workshop session Ptl. Mike Burg laid out a plan for Rittman to obtain a police K-9 unit. Council gave their tentative approval of the project.
At their fall training session in November, the Ohio Chapter of the FBI National Academy Associates awarded Chief Larry Boggs their annual Officer of the Year Award. The award was given to Boggs for his actions during the armed robbery & ensuing firefight back in January. Ironically due to city budget cuts Chief Boggs was not able to attend the fall training session to accept his award.
The 1984 Officer of the Year was Ptl. Byron Lyle
Early in January Carl Yoakem was shot & killed by Truman Watts on S. Main St. in front of the Rittman VFW Post. Yoakem was shot at close range with a 12 gauge shotgun. Watts would later be acquitted of homicide charges based upon a self-defense argument.
In mid-February Chief Larry Boggs found it necessary to suspend two officers. The suspension was based upon their response to a December 28th early morning bar fight at Dom’s on S. Main St. The suspensions were for “failure to act” at the scene of the fight.
Late in February, James Walling (the Main-Way Market robber) along with three other inmates of the Lima Correctional Facility escaped. Walling was recaptured just North of Lima a few hours after the escape.
The Rittman P.D. K-9 unit was used in a search in mid-March. Called out by the Medina County Sheriff’s Department, the RPD K-9 tracked for about two miles finding both physical evidence & property taken from the gas station that had been broken into in Wadsworth Township.
On April 10th the State Employee relations Board (SERB) ruled on a request by Rittman P.D. officers to be represented by a bargaining agent (The Northern Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association – NOPBA).
After less than a year City Council, at the request of City Manager Julian Suso, determined to cancel the Rittman P.D. K-9 project in spite of the fact that there was still money in the account. City Manager Suso stated that Ptl. Burg would not be permitted to volunteer his time to the city based upon the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. (Suso also used this to prevent Ptl. Burg from volunteering with Rittman EMS & Ptl. Lyle & Sgt. Riggs from volunteering with Rittman fire department.) Suso went on to say that the K-9 was not used often enough to merit an extension of the program (the K-9 was used four times in the trial year).
The 1985 Officer of the Year was Ptl. Byron Lyle
On Friday July 18, 1986 at 3:00 PM the “eagle top” badges worn by Rittman officers since the 1960’s became obsolete. At that time Rittman officers began to wear their new “California oval” style badges.
Due to the recent, tragic, abduction & murder of two children on either side of Rittman (one in Creston & one in Marshallville) the Rittman Police Department became involved in the Block Parent program. This was a program in which adults who would be home during the times when children would be going to & from school could apply to be block parents. After a background check was done the house was given a block parent sign to place in their window. Children in the schools were instructed that if they were injured, or frightened by a stranger on their way to or from school that these were safe houses that they could go to.
Just prior to Christmas, a man with a shotgun entered the Quick-Chek store at 51 N. Main St. one evening just after 10:00 PM. He took money from the register & took one of the clerks hostage for a brief time. The man walked out of the store with the clerk. Once at the sidewalk he told the clerk to walk North on N. Main St. while he ran south.
Based upon Rittman P.D. mug shots the clerks tentatively identified the man as Melvin Klein of Wadsworth. Klein was arrested by Summit County Sheriff’s deputies about five hours after the Quick-Chek robbery when Klein robbed a gas station in Summit County.
In 1986 the department began what would turn out to be an annual event. Officers & dispatchers would stand at the shopping center on N. Main. St. for two weekends in December & collect food & toys for the less fortunate residents of the city. No one sees more of the poor & less fortunate of a city than do the police officers of that city. This was our meager way to help those we often deal with throughout the year.
1986 Officer of the Year was Ptl. Mike Burg
In January officers from our department assisted MEDWAY with a county wide drug raid. Thirteen people were arrested, four of the arrested were from Rittman & were charged with possessing & trafficking in both cocaine & LSD.
Mr. & Mrs. Jim Krinov were honored by Rittman City Council & by Mayor Hall for coming to the aid of Ptl. Lyle at 2:00 AM. The Krinov’s were awake getting their two month old daughter her 2:00 AM feeding when Mr. Krinov observed Ptl. Lyle fighting with a motorist outside of their Pebble Cove residence. While Mrs. Krinov called the police department to inform them of what was going on, Mr. Krinov ran outside to assist Ptl. Lyle in gaining control of the DUI suspect.
Ptl. William Alexander resigned at a disciplinary hearing on June 4th. The hearing was in response to a citizen’s complaint of the officer’s conduct both on & off duty. Ptl. Chuck Ott, a part-time officer was hired full-time in July to replace Ptl. Alexander. Thom Lee was hired as a part-time officer to fill the part-time slot left vacant by Ptl. Ott.
The 1987 Officer of the Year was Sgt. Ross L. Riggs
While 1987 was a slow year for the department, we were more than paid back in 1988 with a rash of arson fires & a sniper incident.
In January of 1988 Rittman P.D. hired its first female officer. Lyn Watters
Late in March Sgt. Ross Riggs became the second member of the department to graduate from the FBI National Academy (152nd Session).
In honor of police memorial week the department held an open house. On display was the department’s collection of drug paraphernalia, confiscated weapons as well as police equipment. The highlight of the open house was the department’s collection of over 4,000 police shoulder patches from around the world.
June 10, 1988 is undoubtedly a “red letter” day in the department’s history. At 6:53 AM the police department received a CB call from a man who was on his way to work, traveling out of town on E. Ohio Ave. He advised police that he had just been shot. As officers arrived to assist the man more shots were fired from inside the Sleepy Owl (a bar located at 241 East Ohio Ave.). The sniper, Mia Braun (23) was intoxicated & in her apartment on the second floor of the bar shooting out of an upstairs window.
The man on his way to work was hit in the upper arm & transported to Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital. More shots were fired–approximately 19 in all.
Then the department received another call, from a woman downstairs in the bar, who stated that she was afraid. The Medina County Sheriff’s Department tactical team (which had arrived on the scene) did a rescue & got the woman out of the lower level of the bar.
As she was being interviewed at the Rittman Police Department it was learned that she had been the one doing the shooting with a single shot bolt action .22 caliber rifle.
In her initial court appearance Braun was charged with felonious assault with a firearm & her bond was set at $100,000. In October Braun plead guilty in Wayne County Common Pleas Court & was sentenced by Judge Mark K. Wiest to three to fifteen years plus an additional three years for the use of the firearm. She was then taken to the Ohio State Reformatory for Women in Marysville.
This incident was the beginning of the end for the legendary Sleepy Owl. “The Owl”, as it was known locally, was built by Mr. Higy in the mid-1930’s. That was the original & only name of the bar in the entire 50+ years it was in existence.
Late in 1988 t-shirts went up for sale in town which stated, “I survived the Rittman sniper attack – June 10th – 1988”. The shirts pictured a smoking pistol & four bullet holes.
Between June 1st & August 16th Rittman experienced a rash of twenty fires. The fires were mostly set in two vacant building, a barn on E. Sunset Dr. & a S. Second St. house.
Sgt. Ross Riggs, the department’s arson investigator, in conjunction with the State Fire Marshals Office began to investigate the fires.
Late in August charges were filed in the arsons. It was hard for the fire department to accept but the evidence indicated that the arsonists were from among them. One was a probationary fire fighter & the other two were fire department “Juniors”.
In February of 1989 a Wayne County common pleas court jury convicted the adult (19) of one count of arson, one count of conspiracy to commit arson and six counts of complicity to arson.
The 1988 Officer of the Year was Sgt. Ulys Gunnels
A 5:52 AM call to the police department regarding a possible suicide at a Thonen St. address began a four-hour stand off. After police arrived it was learned that shots had been fired in the residence & the man not only had a twelve-gauge shotgun but a semi-automatic rifle & a handgun as well. A perimeter was established & negotiations were started with the man. The Orrville Police Department tactical unit was called to the scene. The man, age 24, was grabbed by an Orrville tactical officer when he stepped outside to retrieve his shotgun that he had thrown through the window. He was arrested & charged with using weapons while intoxicated, inducing panic, and disorderly conduct.
In October of 1987 the Rittman Moose Lodge on S. Main St. & the safe was broken into. The investigating officer, Ptl. Mike Burg, lifted a shoe print that was left on a cash box lid in safe insulation dust.
On March 6, 1989 the person who was wearing that boot in 1987, James W. Smith from the Mansfield area, plead no contest to breaking & entering & safe cracking in Wayne County Common Pleas Court.
Smith was with two men in December 1987 when they were arrested in Gibsonburg, Ohio. In their possession was a book. That book contained notes on 209 businesses & fraternal organizations in 76 Ohio cities that these three had cased. Gibsonburg sent teletypes to the cities listed in the book, which included Killbuck, Ashland, Canal Fulton, Doylestown, Orrville, Wadsworth, Creston and Rittman.
Rittman was the only department in Northeast Ohio with any physical evidence to link any of the members of the gang to a specific burglary (the boot print). Smith’s boots were confiscated from him & as luck would have it he was wearing the same boots the night Gibsonburg arrested him! The Rittman P.D. lift & the actual boot were sent to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation & Identification. A match was confirmed!
In May the department hosted over one hundred guests at the retirement party for Sgt. Ulys Gunnels. It was a roast/dinner & “Sarge’s” service revolver was retired & given to him.
Later in May Ptl. Mike Burg was sworn in as Sergeant to take the place of retired Sgt. Gunnels. Burg placed first on a civil service examination for the position.
In mid-September the department hired its first full time female officer, Laurie Duffield.
Sgt. Ross Riggs followed suit after graduating from the FBI National Academy. Just as Chief Boggs went on to be selected as the Ohio Chapter of the FBI National Academy Associates Officer of the Year, Riggs did too! Riggs was selected based upon his extensive investigation, and successful resolution to, the rash of arson fires experienced in Rittman.
In mid-December Chief Boggs introduced Officer Laurie Duffield to the Rittman Board of Education. Duffield had just completed D.A.R.E. training & gave a presentation to the board in the hopes that she could begin a DARE program in Rittman 5th & 6th graders.
The 1989 Officer of the Year was Sgt. Mike Burg
On the evening of January 18th, at approx. 8:20 PM a confrontation took place on S. Main St. in the area of Sterling Ave. The result being David Lauck, 26, of Wadsworth was stabbed to death & Stanley Malcuit, 35, of Grant St. in Rittman charged with his death.
After stabbing Lauck, Malcuit ran to his apartment. When police & mental health professionals attempted to contact Malcuit but contact could not be established. When it was learned that Malcuit had numerous weapons in his apartment the Orrville Police Department’s tactical team was called for & an evacuation of about fifteen residents began. More attempts were made to contact Malcuit, but all were unsuccessful. Early in the morning the Orrville SRT made entry into the apartment & arrested Malcuit. Malcuit was taken to the Wayne County jail to await arraignment on murder charges.
Late in May Malcuit went on trial. The trial lasted for five days in Judge Robert Brown’s court room. On the final day the jury deliberated just a little over five hours and found Stanley Malcuit not guilty of murder or voluntary manslaughter, believing his self-defense claims.
Chief Boggs & Sgt. Riggs presented a proposal to City Council in March to establish a records clerk position to handle walk-in traffic to the police department as well as data entry & general records keeping duties. They were successful & received the approval of City Council.
In mid-March two late night drug raids resulted in the largest cocaine seizure & the second largest cash seizure in Wayne County. The two residences belonged to brothers Curtis Ryneer (36 Beech St.-Rittman) & Terry Ryneer (1 Cutters Landing-Rittman). Seized was a half-pound of cocaine worth approx. $53,520, two one-pound bags of marijuana worth approx. $6,000, cash in the amount of $24,000, a small amount of LSD was also found. Weapons including a loaded .45 caliber pistol & a loaded AR-15 rifle were also taken from the homes.
March was a very busy month for the police department. In late March Officer Lyn Watters charged four juveniles with vandalism in the damaging of a house that that just been remodeled prior to selling. The youths, ranging in age from 12 to 14 years, did an estimated $17,000 damage to the residence. The boys removed the legs from a table in the house & used them to break out numerous drywall sections. The damaged the wiring, lighting fixtures, and set several small fires on the carpet. They were sent to the Wayne County Juvenile Court.
Toward the end of March, Officer Lyn Waters & Ptl. Thom Lee were injured by James R. Jones Jr. while attempting to arrest him. Jones punched Ofc. Waters in the throat collapsing her esophagus. She was transported to Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital where she was held overnight for observation. Ptl. Lee was bitten on the leg by Jones & was also treated at Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital for the human bite. Jones was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest & disorderly conduct.
In late April City Council began to hear preliminary figures on what it would take to upgrade the police & fire departments heating/cooling and wiring. At that point the figures were $25,668 to replace the heating/cooling system & between $68-80,000 to rewire the buildings. It was at this time that council began to consider if it wouldn’t be more economically feasible to build a new police/fire complex.
Rittman E.M.S. requested the assistance of on-duty officers at a residence on Woodland in mid-November. Officers Dave Woofter & Stan Kowalewski responded & assisted REMS in controlling a 36 year old male who was the victim of a possible drug overdose. REMS transported the man to Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital. While in the residence the officers observed evidence of illegal drug usage. A search warrant for the house was obtained & it was served later that day. Discovered were drug paraphernalia, cocaine & marijuana.
In order to assist the police department with the on-going problem of young adults congregating in the area of North Metzger Ave. & the numerous complaints that second shift (3pm/11pm) was having, Chief Boggs went to City Council in late November, asking them to consider an ordinance currently in use by the city of Cuyahoga Falls. The ordinance makes it a minor misdemeanor for individuals to congregate on sidewalks, street corners, or public grounds with the intent to provoke a breech of the peace. Council passed the legislation onto the City law director for review prior to any further action.
The Wayne County Prosecutors Office sent out a comparison of 1989-1990 for the Orrville-Rittman branch at the end of the year:
1989 cases handled 1990 cases handled
Highway Patrol – 394 Highway Patrol – 315
Rittman P.D. – 185 Orrville P.D. – 220
Orrville P.D. – 152 Rittman P.D. – 189
Doylestown P.D. – 34 Doylestown P.D. – 17
Sheriff’s Dept. – 46 Sheriff’s Dept. – 90
Other P.D.’s – 82 Other P.D.’s – 109
Private Complaints – 283 Private Complaints – 335
The 1990 Officer of the Year was Sgt. Ross Riggs
The 1990 Dispatcher of the Year was Laura Singleton
In April of 1991 the Rittman SWAT team, which had just recently been formed in 1990, received its first “call out”. It was a mutual aid request from Wadsworth P.D. They had a father & son barricaded in their house with weapons…and shots had been fired. Wadsworth police learned from the wife/mother that there were at minimum two weapons in the house. The stand off began around 2:00 AM. The Rittman team contained the house throughout the night as negotiators, ministers & the fathers attorney spoke to the father over the phone. Around 10:30 AM the father came out, followed about an hour later by his son.
Sheriff Loran Alexander & Chief Boggs were “at odds” according to the Daily Record of 6/5/91. Rittman Police had arrested a man for DUI & other violations. During the process of being booked the man swallowed a small white packet he had taken from his pocket. Believing it to be cocaine the Rittman officers went about the process of obtaining a search warrant. However, the officer hit a wall when attempting to execute the warrant. The Sheriff & jail commander Capt. Gene Rhodes refused to let the jail nurse draw the blood/urine sample because the search warrant was issued to the Rittman Police Department. The Sheriff & Capt. Rhodes stood by their decision. The Chief & Asst.-Prosecutor claim that with a large amount of cocaine in his system there could have been some jeopardy to his health while in Sheriff’s Department custody & by stalling the Sheriff’s Department was actually increasing their liability. The Asst.-Prosecutor believed that the Sheriff’s department was guilty of preventing the police department from performing its duties. The test results later revealed that the man did indeed have a large amount of cocaine in his system.
In late June the Special Olympics Torch Run came through Rittman. Three of the members of the department each took the torch for a mile of its pass through Rittman. Sgt. Ross Riggs, Sgt. Mike Burg & Ofc. Laurie Duffield each took a one-mile segment of the torch run through the city.
A yearlong surveillance on W. Sunset Drive was raided in early August. The raid yielded drugs worth an estimated $40,000 along with guns drug paraphernalia and a marijuana grow system.
In mid-August Sgt. Ross Riggs announced that he would be leaving Rittman P.D. to accept a position as Chief of Police in Louisville, Ohio (Stark County).
As a result of Riggs’ leaving Ptl. Byron Lyle was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in August. Also in August Rittman reserve officers Mike Howell & Roger Pauley were made full time officers when then placed in the top four of 45 candidates who took the full time civil service test.
The Rittman SWAT team was fortunate enough to spend three days with FBI tactical trainers at Camp Perry, Ohio in late October. The training consisted of physical conditioning, firearms scenario’s, and tactical applications.
In late November Dispatcher Lucy Roberts left the department with over twenty-five years of service. A large dinner with roughly 200 guests was held in her honor at the Smithville Inn. The department gave her a custom made plaque which included her badge & a bronze microphone, the same microphone she first used as a dispatcher in 1966. To add to her bell collection a porcelain bell was given to her with her dates of service August 31, 1966 – December 31, 1991.
The 1991 Officer of the Year was Ptl. Dave Woofter
The 1991 Dispatcher of the Year was Disp. Laura Singleton
From January to March of 1992 Sgt. Mike Burg attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Burg was the third member of the department to attend this prestigious school.
Steve Gibbs was hired as a full time patrolman in September.
Officer Lyn Watters was recognized in November in the “Hot Sheet News”, published by the Ohio Department of Highway Safety. The newsletter provides up to date information on Ohio’s habitual DUI offenders. Ofc. Watters was recognized for arresting Ray Tanner for his 11th DUI since 1976!
In August of this year we experienced a great loss. Part-time dispatcher Ron Wirth died of a heart attack while out to dinner with his family. Ron was a full time dispatcher with the Wooster Police Department. Ron was known for, and will be remembered for, his wonderful sense of humor and his exemplary skills as a police dispatcher.
The Officer of the Year was Ptl. Mike Howell
The Dispatcher of the Year was Disp. Missy Thacker
By January of 1993 City Council had decided that the most cost effective way to repair the police & fire departments was to tear down the existing building & rebuild. In the first council session of the year council began to work out the final details of the construction of the new building at 33 E. Ohio Ave. Bids for the construction of the new building are to be opened on February 25th at City Hall.
The following month the police department moved in with Rittman E.M.S. on N. State St. for the duration of the demolition & construction of the new police department.
In mid-June officers were called to 169 S. Main St. for a domestic incident. The male had beat his girlfriend & then kicked her in the head & thrown her out of the apartment. He then barricaded himself in their second floor apartment when police arrived. He pushed a couch in front of the door & then broke out a window & threatened to throw the four year old girl out of the window. Officers managed to get him to the door where he was sprayed with OC (pepper) spray & he surrendered. The girl was not harmed. He was arrested & charged with child endangering, domestic violence, inducing panic & menacing.
The department’s SWAT team spent a week with members of SEAL Team V at Camp Perry late in June. The week long training session also included the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Special Response Team and a team from Pennsylvania.
Again in 1993 the Ohio Special Olympic Torch came through Rittman. This time Officers Lyn Watters & Steve Gibbs ran the torch on its way through town.
In August the old police & fire departments were demolished to make way for the construction of the new police & fire departments. Ben Imhoff Construction was awarded the bid for the new building.
A 39 year old Rittman man was arrested after an investigation revealed that he had videotaped himself having sex with a twelve year old girl. When questioned by Rittman officers the man admitted to having had sex with the minor. He was arrested & taken to the Wayne County jail where he posted a $20,000 bond.
The 1993 Officer of the Year was Ptl. Jim Foster
The 1993 Dispatcher of the Year was Lucy Roberts
(She had retired as full time but had come back to help out on a part time basis)
In March two sixteen year old Rittman High School students were charged in Wayne County Juvenile Court for making a bomb threat to the Rittman High School on January 10th. Charges of phone harassment & inducing a panic were filed on the youths.
A 31 year old Rittman man called a social service agency in Wooster early in April & threatened to shoot some people & then himself. The agency contacted Rittman P.D. who sent the SWAT team to the residence where the calls had originated. The man was not found there or in the immediate vicinity. A tip led the team to another residence in town where the man was located & arrested. He was released into the custody of the social service agency for evaluation.
In early October it was moving time for the department. We left our temporary location & said goodbye to our gracious hosts, Rittman E.M.S. & moved into our new building at our old address – 33 East Ohio Ave. During the move Orrville P.D. dispatchers handled our 9-1-1 calls for us. The move was complete & we were settled in when the building was dedicated on November 19, 1994.
The 1994 Officer of the Year was Ptl. Dave White
The 1994 Dispatcher of the Year was Disp. Maris Dillinger
City employees spoke to City Council in March asking them to revise the city’s employee residency requirement ordinance. Council had a great deal of questions for the city employees. Retired dispatcher Lucy Roberts came to speak on behalf of the city employees & presented Council President Mike Wilkinson with a petition with over 500 signatures supporting the employees. After much discussion Rittman City Council granted city employees a much more liberal residency requirement.
Rittman P.D. SWAT hosted a ballistic handshield course. The instructor was Lt. Al Baker – New York City P.D. – ESU (Ret.). A total of twenty-eight officers attended from ten different departments.
Late in 1994 Sgt. Mike Burg read an account of the actions of the “Goodyear Heights Rapist”, a serial rapist working the Goodyear Heights area of Akron. In that article Burg noticed that there were nine similarities between the Goodyear Heights rapist MO & that of an unsolved rape in Rittman that occurred in 1989. Burg sent a letter to the Akron P.D. detective bureau. In response to the letter Akron sent two detectives to look over Rittman’s case file. As a result of that, Akron P.D. began to focus on David Bellomy who was later arrested & charged with 47 counts of rape. Bellomy confessed to 47 rapes, including the one in Rittman. However he initially wasn’t charged with the Rittman rape because his confession came six days after the statute of limitations for rape – six years.
A sharp prosecutor in Akron convinced the judge that Bellomy’s crimes were that of a serial nature. Because of that the statute of limitations would not start until after his last rape, which would then include the Rittman rape. The judge agreed! Bellomy was charged in ALL of his rapes. Bellomy had, from time to time, stayed with his father who lived across the street from the Rittman rape victim.
The 1995 Officer of the Year was Ptl. Mike Mascolo
The 1995 Dispatcher of the Year was Disp. Ethel Hoffman
Late in January officers responded to a call from the manager of the Villa Apartments on Fairlawn Ext. He told officers that William Snyder (age 17) had told other tenants that “something” had taken place in his apartment…then he left. When officers entered the apartment they found the body of James Snyder (age 42). Mr. Snyder had been struck in the head several times with a baseball bat. William was arrested at his girlfriend’s house in Wadsworth without incident.
In response to a growing number of bank robberies in Northeast Ohio the Rittman Police Department, in conjunction with the FBI, held a bank robbery seminar for employees of Rittman financial institutions in late April.
A six-month investigation by Rittman police & the MEDWAY drug enforcement agency lead to the arrest of eleven people for trafficking in marijuana. Nine of the eleven were from Rittman and four of those nine were arrested out of their classrooms at Rittman High School in the hopes of making an impact. This all came together in May. The other two persons arrested in this bust were two Orrville men.
In early September William Snyder went to trial for killing his father, James. William had been tried as an adult and was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Wayne County Common Pleas Court Judge Mark K. Wiest sentenced William to probation, stating that William needs help not jail.
Later in September Sgt. Mike Burg was awarded the FBI National Academy Associates – Ohio Chapter – Officer of the Year Award. Burg was nominated for his work on the Strawberry Hill Rape/Goodyear Heights Rapist case.
Ohio’s revised DWI law took effect on October 17th. In early December Rittman patrolman Dave White made the first felony DWI arrest in Wayne County. Officer White stopped a motorist for a DWI violation. The motorist, from Medina, had three prior DWI convictions within the past six years. This arrest, his fourth within six years, made it a felony.
The 1996 Officer of the Year was Ptl. Bob Shows
The 1996 Dispatcher of the Year was Disp. Ethel Hoffman
After several months of consideration Rittman City Council gave approval in January for the purchase of a drug detection dog. The dog, to be purchased from Azzi International, will cost the city $3,500. A letter from the Rittman schools in favor of the purchase was also read at council.
In February our K-9 handler, Ptl. Roger Pauley, met his dog. Yator Von Der Eichendorfschule , a German Shepherd which had been imported from Germany.
In early October Rittman officers arrested Michael Stierl (aka/Richard Pavelko) on warrants from the Summit County Sheriff’s Department, the Cuyahoga Falls police department & the Copley police department. Because one of the warrants had to do with the manufacturing of drugs the MEDWAY drug enforcement agency was contacted. A search warrant for the 5 Strawberry Hill residence was obtained. In the house officers found a methamphetamine lab, the first in Wayne County. Due to the toxic & volatile nature of “meth labs”, outside assistance was requested from the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency & Ohio BCI & I. Numerous items of evidence were taken from the residence as well as Stierl’s automobile, a 1984 Porsche 944, which would later go on to serve a more positive role as the Rittman police DARE car. On the rear wing windows of the Porsche it would say…”This Vehicle Confiscated From A Local Drug Dealer”!
Late in the year city council approved the contract with the police department. The contract covered the department’s sergeants, officers & dispatchers. The duration of the contract is for three years. The officers’ wages will increase 3.5% each of the years of the contract. Dispatchers were to receive .25 + 3.5% each year of the contract. Sergeants were to receive 4% the first year & 3.5% the second & third year of the contract.
All employees would receive 4.6 hours of sick leave for every 80 hours worked to an unlimited amount. The city would buy back ½ of the sick leave, up to 480 hours upon retirement after 15 years of service.
Clothing allowance went up to $650/year for Sergeants & officers, and $525/year for dispatchers. Longevity pay, education incentive & insurance were also addressed.
The 1997 Officer of the Year was Ptl. Paul Fiocca
The 1997 Dispatcher of the Year was Disp. Maris Dillinger
Rittman P.D. was names as only one of five law enforcement agencies in the 16th Congressional District to obtain one of the federal COPS grants. Rittman was awarded $75,000 to hire two part-time officers. These grants are made for up to 75% of the total salary and benefits of each officer over a three year period, up to a maximum of $75,000 per officer.
Late in May the Rittman SWAT team again hosted a week-long training seminar for local SWAT /tactical teams. Twenty-eight officers from seven local departments attended the training held at the Rittman P.D. firearms training facility. The instructors were members of the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) based out of Fort Bragg, NC.
Later in the year (September) the Rittman team had an opportunity to show what they had learned when they were invited to the Medina County tactical teams’ annual SWAT competition. There were two events involved in the competition. A house clearing exercise and a shooting course of fire.
The 1998 Officer of the Year was Ptl. Mike Mascolo
The 1998 Dispatcher of the Year was Disp. Betty Winkler
A SWAT training exercise in Dalton had some residents in Dalton a little nervous. The Rittman team went to Dalton on a training exercise set up for us by the Dalton Police Department. Residents in the area of the building we were using were not aware that it was a training scenario! The confusion was addressed, the scenario played out & the team took the perpetrators into custody without firing a shot.
Sometime between September 11th & 12th person(s) got into the fenced in area behind the high school & did an estimated $18,000 damage to the school buses.
SWAT team members Mike Burg & Roger Pauley attended a threat management seminar put on by the Cleveland RTA. This seminar addressed emergency response to bus hijackings. The day ended with the Cleveland P.D. SWAT unit simulating a hostage rescue aboard an RTA bus with the seminar attendees on board the bus as passengers. This was to show tactical team members the perspective of a hostage rescue from a hostage’s point of view
A drug search was done at Rittman High School in December. K-9 units sniffed all students’ lockers & were used in a couple of classrooms. It was a good feeling that NOTHING was found during the search.
The 1999 Officer of the Year was Sgt. Mike Mascolo
As part of the annual D.A.R.E. graduation D.A.R.E. Officer Paul Fiocca asked Mayor Bonnie Kindig to speak. In order to demonstrate to the children what a drug free lifestyle can do for one’s career goals, Officer Matt Smucker was sworn in at the D.A.R.E. graduation by Mayor Kindig.
In February Rittman City Council approved a four-year dispatching contract with Chippewa Township. The contract calls for the Township to pay the city $3,500 a year for dispatching services. These include the Doylestown Police Department, as well as the
Chippewa Township Fire & EMS departments.
Since President John Kennedy designated a week in May as Police Memorial Week in 1962 many departments have recognized fallen officers in many ways. This year the Rittman Police Department along with Wooster P.D., Orrville P.D., Dalton P.D., the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, the Ohio State Highway Patrol – Post #85, as well as a few village departments put on a five month display of historic Wayne County law enforcement items. This display was set up in the Wayne County Historical Society in Wooster.
In May Officer Mike Burg won his 9th Ohio Law Enforcement Olympic medal. This year it was a silver medal in the Combat Pistol event. Hosting the games this year was Akron P.D.
A string of criminal damaging incidents early in July led to a find for third shift officers. At around 1:00 AM officers were sent to the Rufener St. area regardng kids smashing mailboxes. While there they received another call of a sign being thrown through the front window of a home on W. Sunset. A K-9 unit was used to track the perpetrators. The dog led officers to a residence on Pinewood where the front door was standing open. Officers observed two young males in the residence & while making the arrests noticed drug paraphernalia & what appeared to me marijuana in the residence. A search warrant was obtained but prior to it being brought to the scene the owner arrived & gave permission to search. A secret room was found in the basement of the house. The room contained a marijuana grow operation. Charges of cultivating marijuana & drug abuse were also filed on the homeowner & the grow operation was seized.
Late in 1999 Mobile Data Terminals (MDT’s) were installed in each of the patrol cars. In 2000 they were put “on-line”. These are essentially laptop computers that permit the patrol officer to run his own registrations & drivers license checks as well as to “talk” car-to-car with other units from other departments in Wayne County.
The Officer of the Year for 2000 was Ptl. Scott Simonton.
MORE TO FOLLOW SOON