2020 Law Enforcement Conference
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2020 Law Enforcement Conference

The Ohio Attorney General's 2020 Law Enforcement Conference was held virtually on Monday, Sept. 14, to help Ohio's police officers and deputies work better and to show how valued they are. Workshops focused on building leadership skills, sharing new strategies for cold case investigations and increasing community trust.

Officers who were thanked by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost included those who lost their lives while on the job in 2019 and recipients of the annual Distinguished Law Enforcement Awards. Those honors, in part, recognize that by taking a dangerous, underappreciated job, and sticking with it even when times get tougher, law enforcement officers help the people of Ohio thrive.

Read on for more details.

Distinguished Law Enforcement Awards

Lifetime Achievement Awards
William Gast

Detective William “Jay” Gast
Toledo Police Department

In nearly 33 years with the Toledo police, Gast worked as a street cop, in vice narcotics and on the persons-crimes and cold case teams, exceling in all roles. He was honored with a distinguished service medal and medal of valor for twice saving people from burning homes; for his help putting numerous murderers and rapists behind bars, he earned letters of appreciation from prosecutors, court officials and civilians. As one judge wrote in crediting Gast’s skill and dedication: “A case can be won or lost before the crime is ever committed.”

Matthew Mayer

Sgt. Detective Matthew Mayer
Richland County Sheriff’s Office

In more than 25 years with the sheriff’s office, Mayer worked in the crime lab and as a dispatcher, corrections officer, patrolman, detective and detective in charge of major crimes. Regardless of the position, colleagues and community members commended his hard work, team-building and respect for all. Letter writers noted that he “simply refused to quit until a case was solved” and that he taught investigators to dig deeper. Mayer also displayed standout compassion and community dedication, as underscored by his work to establish a camp for kids with muscular dystrophy.

Civilian Leadership Award
Paul Herbert

Judge Paul Herbert
Franklin County Municipal Court

Judge Herbert started the first human trafficking court in Ohio more than 10 years ago. What began as a fundamental change in the judge’s own viewpoint has led to CATCH Court (Changing Attitudes To Change Habits), a specialty docket and program that have restored lives and changed the way women are viewed by the criminal justice system. Judge Herbert’s pioneering model has been recognized worldwide.

Community Service Award
Mike Walsh

Sgt. Mike Walsh
Summit County Sheriff’s Office

In his 12 years on community relations assignment, Sgt. Walsh has instituted more than 30 neighborhood watch groups; multiple programs to help senior citizens, including Knox Box emergency home entry; and Safety City updates to better teach children how to stay safe. The 20-plus other programs he started, among other missions, discourage teen drinking, help families facing tough times, loan life jackets and help people learn to protect themselves against fraud. Sgt. Walsh is so dedicated to his role, he turned down a promotion so that he could remain in his division.

Training Award
Joe Weyer

Detective Joe Weyer
Alliance Police Department

A trainer since 1996, Detective Weyer led the transformation of what was a dirt berm and shed into Alliance police’s world-class training facility, which features a 360-degree live-fire shoot house and various practice ranges. The detective is committed to providing low-cost, high-quality training to better equip law enforcement, especially in the wider Alliance region. He accomplishes that by building and mentoring a community of dedicated trainers.

Mark Losey Service Awards
Deirdre Jones

Cmdr. Deirdre Jones
Cleveland Division of Police

As Cleveland’s first LGBTQ representative for the Public Safety Department, Cmdr. Jones works to strengthen the relationship between police and the gay community. Within the police division, the 31-year veteran (the first woman to supervise the homicide unit) champions improvements in the hiring and promotion process to ensure  the division reflects the city’s strengths and diversity. The commander’s work has been recognized as a significant factor in Cleveland’s perfect score for two years running on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.

John Orzech

Chief John Orzech
Sandusky Police Department

When Lt. Orzech was promoted to chief in 2013, community-police relations were strained. From the start, though, the chief made it a priority to build trust. Officers have been encouraged to get out of their cars and humanize the badge. And Chief Orzech has led by example: He volunteers in the community, including delivering food for Meals on Wheels and taking part in events such as Polar Plunge and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. The Marine veteran  is a vocal proponent for ending gender violence and has become godfather to many children through his church.

Group Achievement Award

Spcs. Jeff Smallwood and Heather Saidler and Officer Chad Koeppe
Cincinnati Police Department

Spcs. Jeff Smallwood Spcs. Heather Saidler Officer Chad Koeppe

In a feat of new technology, DNA collected from a series of 1999-2001 stranger rapes was recently linked to a distant relative of the perpetrator. In a feat of dogged investigative work, the Cincinnati officers combed through 10,000 similar genetic profiles, tracing that distant relative’s DNA back to a common ancestor in the 1700s and then forward through generations to identify the rapist.

Valor Award

Sgt. William Chad Knight and Officers Jeremy Campbell, Vincent Carter, David Denlinger, Ryan Nabel and Brian Rolfes
Dayton Police Department

Sgt. William Chad Knight Officer Jeremy Campbell Officer Vincent Carter Officer David Denlinger Officer Ryan Nabel Officer Brian Rolfes

On Aug. 4, 2019, after a gunman began firing in the popular Oregon District in downtown Dayton, these officers took him down within 30 seconds, just as he was about to enter a crowded nightclub. Their immediate action saved countless civilians from the active shooter, who had already killed nine people and wounded 27 others. The officers went on to secure the scene and provide lifesaving assistance to the wounded, bolstering the beleaguered community’s faith in its police department.

2019 fallen officers

Dale Woods, Colerain Township police officer
Dale J. Woods

Dale J. Woods
Colerain Township Police Department
End of watch: Jan. 7, 2019

Officer Woods was fatally struck by a pickup truck as he was setting out cones at the scene of a car crash. The 46-year-old was a father of three who had served 16 years with Colerain police. He had also served as a firefighter, fire investigator and police officer in North College Hill and Lincoln Heights. Colerain Township Police Chaplain James Love said, “He only got jobs in which he was serving other people.”

Bill Brewer, Clermont County Deputy Sheriff
Bill Brewer

William L. Brewer Jr.
Clermont County Sheriff’s Office
End of watch: Feb. 2, 2019

Detective Brewer was killed when a man faked shooting himself to lure deputies inside his home, then fired at them through a wall. The 42-year-old detective, who was married and had an 8-year-old son, had served with the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office for 21 years, including three years on the SWAT team. Sheriff Steve Leahy said, “This would be the guy I would want to show up if my family members were in need.”

Jorge Del Rio, Dayton police detective
Jorge R. Del Rio

Jorge R. Del Rio
Dayton Police Department
End of watch: Nov. 7, 2019

Detective Del Rio was fatally shot while leading a DEA task force team in executing a search warrant at the home of suspected drug dealers. The accomplished undercover officer was 55 years old, a married father of five and grandfather of three who had been with the Dayton police for nearly 30 years. Chief Richard Biehl said, “He left a legacy of service and sacrifice to this noble profession that is rare even among the best of us.”

K9 Cane
K9 Cane

K9 Cane
Logan County Sheriff’s Office
End of Watch: Nov. 14, 2019

K9 Cane was fatally injured in a training accident just two months after being certified for service. His handler threw a ball as a reward for the 1-year-old German shepherd, who gave chase. The icy ground made it impossible for the K9 to stop, however, and he slammed into a trailer. He died two days later of internal injuries.