BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Lt. Jeff Siebenaler is hanging up his badge from the city he has served for so long.
A 35-year veteran of the Maumee Police Division, Siebenaler’s last day of work before his official retirement was November 20. His departure didn’t have much fanfare due to COVID-19 restrictions, but fellow officers were invited to congratulate him and wish him well in a low-key way.
Siebenaler leaves the department after serving in nearly every position. He is credited with starting the division’s Special Response Unit or SRU team and has garnered multiple awards, including Officer of the Year twice – in 1995 and 2009.
“It’s going to be hard to leave here,” Siebenaler said. “I’ve spent most of my adult life working here and I’ve had some great relationships with some great people – people who have been wonderful to me and people I will consider my friends for the rest of my days.”
Siebenaler has also received Honorable Service, Life Saving, Chief’s Achievement, Distinguished Service and Exceptional Duty awards.
Maumee Police Chief Dave Tullis commended him for his expertise in the field of policework.
“Jeff has been a valuable asset to the city of Maumee,” said Tullis. “He can look back on his career here and be proud of what he accomplished and what he was able to provide and do for our community.”
Siebenaler grew up in Woodville and worked for the Lake Township department before joining the Maumee Police Division in November 1985.
He had obtained a two-year degree, then while working in the Maumee division, he completed a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Toledo.
Initially, Siebenaler worked as a patrol officer and then moved to the detective bureau. In 1996, he was promoted to the position of sergeant, where he oversaw the road patrol, bicycle patrol, training and detective units. He also oversaw the photography unit, which no longer exists.
In 2012, he was promoted to the position of line lieutenant, where he oversaw the law enforcement operations of the division, which includes the police patrol, detective bureau and specialized units.
Fellow officer Josh Sprow, who was recently promoted from the position of lieutenant to assistant police chief, agreed with Tullis that Siebenaler’s wealth of knowledge contributed greatly to the department.
“I’ve worked with Jeff my entire career here and he is extremely knowledgeable,” Sprow said. “He’s been involved in pretty much every facet of the division and there are going to be some pretty big shoes to fill.”
One of Siebenaler’s signature accomplishments was creating the division’s Special Response Unit, which he helped implement in 1991 with former police chief Bob Zink. It would take three years to become fully operational, as the two men were tasked with developing the policies, procedures, training and equipment needed for the unit. Siebenaler said that the SRU fills an important niche in the realm of public safety.
“We were seeing an in-crease in situations that required something a little bit more than the average officer could handle in terms of specialized training and equipment to resolve those situations,” Siebenaler said. “It’s difficult to train people to an expertise level on specialized tactics and equipment. It would be impractical to try to train the whole department to that level – you can’t do it.”
Like every other community, Maumee faces a variety of challenges when it comes to policing, such as the rise of opioid use, mental health issues, resources and manpower, he said.
“It’s not just happening in the big cities, this is happening everywhere,” he said.
While he encountered numerous situations throughout his career, among the most harrowing was getting shot while responding to a call in Sylvania. Fortunately, Siebenaler’s body armor saved his life.
“It was one of those moments that really make you wonder,” he said.
It happened in 2010 when Maumee’s SRU was providing assistance to the Sylvania department through a mutual aid agreement. The perpetrator in that incident was killed at the scene.
“Those are moments you wonder, ‘Did we do it right?’ and we did,” he said.
Among the biggest changes over the past 30 years are the advancements in technology, which make policework possible on devices as small as cell phones and have led to dramatic improvements in the speed of communication and information.
“When I first started working here, you got to certain parts of the city and the radios didn’t even work,” he said. “There is so much better equipment today.”
Advanced training has also been a factor in policework, especially in Maumee, where Siebenaler estimates he has participated in thousands of hours of training.
“This is a phenomenal place to work and I think that the community is fortunate to have a police department that believes in service to the community and wants to be involved. I’ve met some great police officers who are very thoughtful and very dedicated,” he said.
Without going into much detail, Siebenaler said he would continue his career in another capacity outside of Maumee.
“As much as I feel a little bit sorry to see this chapter close, I am excited to have this opportunity to open another one,” he said.