So much has changed in law enforcement over the past 23 years. While I have spent those years as a full-time law enforcement instructor, I have still been very active in the law enforcement field as a reserve officer, so I have kept up with those changes over time, for my own benefit and the benefit of students and trainees.
It has been 23 years since I left full-time law enforcement and my agency, the Reynoldsburg, Ohio Police Department (RPD).
Fast-forward to the present day. I went back to my old stomping grounds to really see how much had changed. The population had risen from approximately 27,000 residents in 1991 to 35,893 as of 2012—a big change in and of itself. I was quite aware of the new department facility, built in 2001. This time, the builders listened to end-user input, and the result was a police department building that had been designed to be viable at least 50 years from its opening. The building opened with cavernous storage areas, office space for detectives, an indoor firing range with six firing points, a major bay and sally port area, a dedicated SWAT room, a major dispatching center and overall attention to police efficiency. But that wasn’t all that had changed.
Because the City of Reynoldsburg had been transformed from a suburban “bedroom community” to a major suburban community with new areas of publicly funded housing and major industry encompassing some 11.24 square miles, the department itself also had to transform with those changes.
According to Lt. Ron Wright, who was one of my police academy cadets many years ago, the department has expanded greatly since then, but, like most agencies, more officers could be utilized. Today, the RPD has 53 full-time sworn officers. Thirty three are assigned to patrol duties, two school resource officers, one community relations officer, one DARE officer, one full-time motorcycle officer and six patrol sergeants. There are seven detectives and a detective sergeant, and one support service’s sergeant. While there is currently no K9 unit, there is a part-time SWAT team with an allocated strength of 14 officers. Up to six officers are assigned to bicycle patrol during warm weather months, and eight officers serve on the department’s training team.
Guns & Gear
The department’s primary handgun is the ubiquitous .40-caliber Glock 22, which is stoked with Winchester 180-grain Ranger T-Series ammunition. The RPD issues and utilizes traditional Remington 870 pump shotguns and well as Bushmaster M4A2 and M4A3 carbines. The Remington 870s are a mix of the same 18-inch-barreled guns I had used 23 years ago along with some newer 14-inch-barreled models. The 14-inch versions are sized well for the new Ford Taurus Police Interceptor cruisers, and they’re equipped with SureFire DSF-870 weapon lights. All 870s have the standard four-round magazine backed up by receiver-mounted sidesaddles for carrying spare ammo. The Bushmaster M4s are used by patrol and SWAT and are equipped with Knight’s Armament railed forends, vertical foregrips, optics (on the SWAT guns), and SureFire Millenium weapon lights. The duty 5.56mm NATO load for SWAT and patrol is the 62-grain Hornady TAP Urban load. Both long guns are secured in the cruisers via dual locking devices, giving officers their choice of equipment based on the situation at hand. Individual officers may purchase their own personally owned handguns and/or rifles to utilize for patrol or SWAT duties if so assigned.
The SWAT team uses the Remington Model 700P rifle topped by a Leupold 4.5-14X variable scope as its primary sniper weapon. The sniper observer is equipped with an M14 fitted with a Trijicon ACOG sight as a support weapon. Both are loaded with Federal 168-grain MatchKing BTHP rounds.
Less-lethal gear has not been overlooked. The RPD has full-auto PepperBall launchers and had conducted training with the PepperBall guns just prior to my visit there. There is also a dedicated orange-stocked, less-lethal Remington 870 shotgun stoked with CTS beanbag rounds and an FN 303 Multi-Shot less lethal launcher as well. All three less-lethal system are available for use by patrol and SWAT as needed.
Reynoldsburg has looked beyond performing at what might be considered standard Midwestern suburban policing. Under the leadership of Chief Jim O’Neill and Lt. Wright, several innovative programs and forward-looking concepts have been or are being implemented. The first of which is their Police Motor Unit.
Not just a show unit for parades, the RPD Motor Unit operates year round, in all weather conditions with the exception of ice. Equipped with two Harley-Davidson police motorcycles (one a 2012 and the other a 2013), Sgt. Mark Moser and Officer James Triplett provide a positive community relations impact throughout the city. Tasked with handling citizen-generated traffic complaints, the Motor Unit meets with the complaining
citizen and keeps them advised of their progress in handling the traffic complaint. Lidar guns are carried it the Harley saddlebags to take enforcement action.
In talking with Sgt. Moser, my former partner, we discussed their desire for a long gun that could be carried on their bikes in a manner hidden and secured from the public. The motorcycle units are very often in the area of various city school zones and would likely be among the first, if not the first, officers to respond to an active-shooter event at the school. We decided their best solution (due to space limitations) might be to change their duty sidearms from the Glock .40 to the FN Five-seveN 5.7x28mm high-capacity handgun and dispense with the idea of a bike-mounted long arm. Bike officers, and the school DARE officer for that matter, could carry a spare magazine of the LE-only armor-piercing load, which will penetrate soft body armor and yaw in soft tissue. Lt. Wright is in the process of studying the implementation of the Five-seveN as an alternate duty weapon for select officers.
The RPD is heavily invested in community policing. For some agencies, this means implementing “feel good” programs that look promising on the outside, but when closely examined have no real substance. Their programs, like the Motor Unit, show effectiveness in terms of actually benefitting the community. The Motor Unit provides a constant and tangible link between the officers and citizens of the community. The mounted officers are more accessible while astride their bikes than officers in cruisers, and they are always ready and willing to share information about their program with adults, teens and children alike. But the motorcycle program is not the RPD’s most ambitious effort—their new community outreach center is.
Utilizing the space of a long abandoned grocery/department store, the RPD is converting the space as a combination police substation and community center. The center is being run by a specially selected community relations officer and is due to be fully operational in the next few months.
A lot has changed in Reynoldsburg over the last 23 years, and the police department has changed with it. If the RPD keeps looking forward and keeps innovating, it is sure to keep up with any changes that come down the line in the future.