Sgt. Ross Fowler, from left, Lt. Todd Dietzel and Officer Laura Park of the Moreland Hills Police Department are just three of 18 squad members who participate in community outreach and youth oriented programs and events.

Lt. Todd Dietzel and his colleagues at the Moreland Hills Police Department pride themselves in community outreach and the bonds they create with the residents in the village. A major focus of the department is children. They believe in the importance of good relationships between youths and police.

“Everyone here hopes that how some of these kids someday look at police officers maybe started from somebody from one of the police departments in the Orange schools,” Lt. Dietzel said. “The most gratifying part is really working with the kids and getting a smile on their face after a positive interaction with a police officer.”

He explained that officers in the department are authentic in their community mindedness. “It’s not because they’re being told to do it. It’s because everyone here genuinely enjoys working with people in the community.”

From handing out stickers to children in schools to stopping by their lemonade stands in the summer, Moreland Hills police officers treasure the time they spend with the community’s youth. One of their most beloved youth outreach events is an annual fishing outing at Forest Ridge Preserve.

“The fishing tournament is something the chief came up with about five years ago or so. It’s been really such a huge success, even with [COVID-19]. We modified it last year and a little bit this year. We get a large response from the community.”

Lt. Dietzel explained that the free fishing event was created with the intent of getting children outdoors.

“That’s what the chief’s main goal was. Get people enjoying the outdoors and not sitting in front of an electronic device. We have fishing poles, we have everything you could possibly need to fish,” he said.

The department also participates in the well-known “Shop With A Cop” program during the holidays.

Normally, the event consists of the department sponsoring families and taking them shopping in their police vehicles. Lt. Dietzel said that the large event would gather hundreds of people and many officers together, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, things have been modified.

This year, the department is still collecting donations and gifting Target gift cards to families in need during the holiday season.

“We participate in that with several other police agencies throughout Northeast Ohio and that’s a lot of fun,” Lt. Dietzel said.

The department also offers a house watch program that can be helpful during the holidays when families are on vacation and would like for the officers to keep an eye on their homes while they are gone.

Some other services the department offers are ALICE training, which is a program to train students on what to do if there is an active shooter in their school, self-defense for women, gun safety, car seat installation, Safety Town and the Community Emergency Response Team.

The department stresses the importance of the community not only feeling safe with them, but also feeling camaraderie with them.

Lt. Dietzel runs the department’s social media page and, while keeping the community informed about things like scams and power outages, he also likes to post fun things. He said he does this to show the community the “lighter side” of cops.

“We are about business but we’re human beings,” he said. “We can have fun with our job, and we understand that. We don’t want police to be this ominous being that you see in the car and be worrisome.”

Making up the Moreland Hills Police Department alongside Lt. Dietzel are Chief Kevin Wyant, Sgt. Ross Fowler, Sgt. Caroline Tackla, Det. Scott Williams as well as Patrol Officers Tony Buzecan, Joe Scolaro, Scott Bennett, Josh White, Gary Byers, Tom Pate, Laura Park, Paul Hobart, Charles Lee, Mark Toth, Donn Breckenridge and Preston LaFrance.

“Some of our officers, Joe [Scolaro] and Gary [Byers], for instance, started handing out stickers in the schools a few years ago,” Lt. Dietzel said. “Every time [the students] see a police officer, they ask for a sticker and it’s totally cool.”

Constantly replenishing the sticker supply is a good problem to have, he said.

“I’d like to think that those relationships that we’re creating and forging with those kids have long lasting effects down the line,” he added. “But we still have to earn it.”

Lt. Dietzel said he and his colleagues firmly believe in the “see something, say something” motto. No call is too small and the department is always happy to help, no matter the situation.

“We wear a lot of hats, you know, it’s not about just writing tickets,” Lt. Dietzel said. “We can only do this job with the help of the community because they’re our eyes and ears, but we also have to network with the community.”

Lt. Dietzel spoke highly of his fellow officers and their commitment to the community.

“We have police officers that are just dedicated and genuinely care.

“This is a police department that I’m lucky enough to work for,” he said. “Everybody here embodies the community policing spirit.”

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