With Nov. 24 quickly approaching, Lt. Dave Hartsel is enjoying his last days before retiring as a police officer with the Tiffin Police Department.
Hartsel has been serving on the department for more than 30 years, and he said he will miss the job, the people and the Tiffin community.
"I'm going to miss the job. I'm going to miss the people I work with," he said. "It's been a great job. I highly recommend it to anyone. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing."
PHOTO BY ERIKA PLATT-HANDRU
Lt. Dave Hartsel, whose last day with Tiffin Police Department is Nov. 24, poses on a police cruiser.
Hartsel plays the bass guitar with Xpando, a local classic rock band, at Clover Club in February 2009.
Hartsel, who originally is from Cleveland and moved to Tiffin with his family in 1960, first joined Tiffin Police Department as a dispatcher in 1977 at the age of 23. Before that, and following his high school graduation, he had traveled around the area as a bass player with Loony Toonz, a rock-and-roll band.
"I pretty much grew up in Tiffin," Hartsel said.
He and his wife, Barbara, live in Tiffin, and Hartsel continues to play bass guitar for a local classic-rock band, Xpando.
Hartsel said his family inspired him to become a police officer, as he had an uncle who was part of Cleveland Police Department and two cousins who were police officers for Lakewood Police Department.
"Its kind of a family thing," he said.
After finishing the police academy at Terra Community College and serving on Bettsville Police Department for a year, Hartsel returned to Tiffin Police Department July 24, 1978.
Hartsel has served as a road patrol officer and a detective, and was promoted to his current position, a lieutenant, in 1989.
"I'm in charge of the patrol division," he said. "I basically supervise the sergeants who supervise the shifts."
His favorite duties included those of a detective, he said, a position in which he served a total of 12 years.
"I always wanted to work investigations," he said. "But I've enjoyed the last couple of years back in patrol. It's not as stressful."
Five police chiefs have served since Hartsel began at Tiffin Police Department, and he said technology has been one of the aspects of the department to change the most.
"When I started, we had a single red gumball on the roof of the car," he said. "We had no AM/FM radios to listen to while we were cruising."
A total of six portable radios were available for the police officers, and now, every police officer has their own, he said.
To run license plates, Hartsel said he had to use a teletype, and when that didn't work, police had to go to the license bureau to look up the license plates.
He said in 1979, he had to do just that following a vehicle pursuit.
Hartsel had to end the chase near River Road, he said, and he and his sergeant then had to go to the license bureau to look up the driver's license plate number.
"My sergeant and I spent about three hours physically searching license plates," he said. "We went to the guy's door, knocked on it and arrested him."
Now, police officers have everything at the tip of their fingers with the help of laptops in each cruiser.
"If you would have told me that I'd have all that in the cruiser, I would have laughed and thought it was a futuristic movie," he said. "Now, in second or two, I get it all back, even photos."
Along with technological advances, Hartsel said the biggest change he's seen within the Tiffin community is the lack of respect for law enforcement and for parental authority. The shift in respect occurred during the late 1980s and early 1990s, he said.
"I'm amazed at the lack of self-respect people have for themselves, the lack of parental authority and the lack of respect for law enforcement," he said. "It never ceases to amaze me how many times a week parents will call about kids not getting out of bed and going to school."
Hartsel said common calls police now deal with include thefts, disorderly conduct, and reckless and drunk driving complaints. He said police have noticed a big shift away from complaints involving fights.
"When I first started, every Friday and Saturday, there were bar fights," he said. "The fighting has calmed down, which is a good thing."
Hartsel said the most memorable call throughout his police career was July 13, 1979.
That Friday, he responded to a fight involving a man and a 17-year-old boy at the parking lot of a local restaurant.
"The adult wanted a relationship with an underage girl who worked at a local restaurant. The man was intoxicated, and the girl's boyfriend tried to stop him from making advances to her."
Hartsel said the boy died as a result of a punch to the throat from the fight.
"He died in my arms," he said. "I gave him mouth to mouth and it didn't do any good."
It was the first time Hartsel had ever handled a call like that, he said, and at the end of the night, he signed the murder charge for the man involved.
"Since the detective bureau has been around, I was the only patrolmen ever to sign a murder charge," he said. "And I took that as an extreme compliment for the way I did that job that night."
Hartsel said he will miss Tiffin Police Department, and he also will miss serving the city of Tiffin.
"I'm grateful to have been able to do this in Tiffin. It's a great community," he said.
He said in 2004, he realized how much the community appreciated him after he had open heart surgery and was off of work for a little more than two months.
"After the heart attack, the number of cards I had from people I didn't know and from the people I arrested ... it humbled me, the well wishing I got from them. It just shocked me. I'll never forget that."
"Doing this job, all you see is the bad," he said. "It kind of makes you believe there are still good people out there."
Tiffin Police Chief Dave LaGrange said Hartsel will be missed at the department, especially his sense of humor and knack for always finding a good deal.
"It's not often that you find someone to work with who has a warped as sense of humor as you do," he said. "It's been a challenge to stay one step ahead of him."
LaGrange said the police department will promote another lieutenant, which will open up a sergeant position and a vacancy for an entry-level police officer position.
"We're losing someone with a great depth of experience and knowledge," LaGrange said of Hartsel. "Not only the police-work side, but the investigative side. That's always hard to replace."