Waterville Township Police Are Now Fully Staffed 24/7

The Waterville Township Police Department is now fully staffed and includes (from left) officers David Bowman, Marty Przybysz, Josh Tonjes, Lt. Philip Gallup, Chief Kevin Smith, Miami Box, Phillip Sommers and Joel Turner. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Got a tip, a question, a complaint or a compliment for the Waterville Township Police Department?

“Stop in, call or leave a comment on our Facebook page,” said Chief Kevin Smith, who since his appointment in August has made public interaction one of his department’s priorities. “I’m big on feedback from the community. We want to hear what they have to say.”

The police department, located at 8245 Farnsworth Rd., has open doors between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. weekdays for the public to stop by and speak with Smith, Lt. Philip Gallup or one of the two officers on duty. The non-emergency line at (419) 878-9991 is answered during those times. Additionally, the comments are now turned on for the department’s Facebook page.

“We want to hear their concerns, or if they just want to know what’s going on, people can stop in. We’re all happy to talk. That’s the whole idea of community policing,” Smith said. “But the biggest change is that we’re now fully staffed and to the point of offering 24/7 coverage.”

When Smith took over six months ago, he was admittedly stretched as the department only had three officers, and one was set to leave. Smith, who retired as a sergeant after 27 years with the Toledo Police Department, sought out his friend Gallup, who retired on July 31 after 32 years with Sylvania police. The men got busy focusing on recruiting officers to aid the two officers already at the department, including Josh Tonjes and Miami Box.

Tonjes, an Army National Guard veteran with two years as a Haskins police officer, joined the township in 2021. Box, who served as an officer for Mercy Health and Owens Community College, arrived in January 2022.

The new hires include experienced officers who bring a wealth of policing experience: David Bowman from Washington Township police; Martin Przbysz, 28 years with Toledo police; Phillip Sommers, Ohio Highway Patrol, Walbridge and Bradner; and Joel Turner, Oregon police. 

“Together we have over 130 years of experience,” Smith said. “We have three officers with SWAT experience, two accident reconstructionists; three have worked as detectives, one is a crisis negotiator, three were field training officers, one was on a metro drug task force, and all of us have gone through some kind of crisis intervention training. 

“I did not think we could find so many qualified candidates, but we did, and all of them came here because they wanted to work for this department,” he said.

Every 12-hour shift is covered by two officers who utilize the department’s five cars to regularly patrol the township, do house and business checks and manage traffic in front of Lial Catholic School.

“The most important thing is our guys being out there protecting the citizens and their property,” Smith said.

As a rural community, Waterville Township’s crime reports aren’t as packed as Toledo’s, Smith said. The first few months included a fatal accident, a sexual assault and some ATV thefts. But mostly officers deal with accidents – often with deer – car lockouts and home checks.

“We want to make sure we’re out there assisting the public in getting what they need,” he said.

Ongoing training is required by the state, and officers spend time completing training online or participating in classes offered by other local departments. A soon as Smith took over as chief, Whitehouse Police Chief Allan Baer called Smith immediately to offer training opportunities, and Waterville Chief Joe Valvano has helped Smith gain knowledge about the area.

“We all have the same problems and the same concerns. I like how each jurisdiction supports one another and backs each other up,” Smith said.

During the last few months, Smith has also focused on the more mundane but just as important details: consolidating manuals, changing the pay period to bi-weekly, adding direct deposit and providing a regular schedule. 

“We’re also working on a benefit package to offer,” he said, explaining that with average hourly pay of $28.00 an hour, the township is still among the lowest-paid departments in the county. “We want to keep quality officers, so we need to be competitive.”

The township trustees have agreed to place a 4.5-mill levy on the Tuesday, March 19 ballot to collect $402,910 a year for the General Fund. This will help cover an $89,000 dispatching fee, $13,100 health department fee, rising insurance, gas and equipment costs, and aid in providing competitive wages for the police department.

If approved, the levy will begin collections on January 1, 2025 and cost township residents an estimated $157.50 per $100,000 in home valuation. Trustees plan to further discuss the levy during the Wednesday, February 28 meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at 621 Farnsworth Rd.

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