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Criminal Justice Update

Alliance police officer building a better city, one child at a time


Alliance Police Officer Roy Tittle coaches students in the Kick Drugs Out of Alliance program, which he runs.

Officer Roy Tittle has spent 21 years teaching students martial arts, a bid to help them be their best

ALLIANCE, Ohio — When the transition from elementary to intermediate school proved difficult for Carter, he found a refuge in a martial arts program for kids run by Police Officer Roy Tittle.

Carter was 8 at the time, and school, which had always come easy for him, suddenly didn’t.

“Every day before school, he didn’t want to go because he was being picked on,” said Staci Gurney, Carter’s mom. “He was being punched and kicked. It was heartbreaking.”

Her son immediately took to the Kick Drugs Out of Alliance program, begun more than two decades ago by Tittle and another officer. But Carter faced a big problem: One of his bullies was already enrolled. 

“I went to Mr. Tittle right away,” Gurney said. “And I said, ‘I just need you to know that one of the kids who is picking on my son is in your class.’

“Mr. Tittle talked to the kid, and he made an announcement in class: ‘There is no tolerance for bullying in here, and if I find out it’s going on at school, it’s not going to be good.’”

Two years later, the program has helped Carter rediscover his self-confidence. He is a purple belt who is almost ready for his blue belt — a feat he accomplished by “continuously practicing and testing,” he said after a recent class, held in the gym of Rockhill Elementary School.

“First, you start out with the white belt,” said Carter, who recently turned 11. “Then you get the yellow belt, orange belt, green belt, purple belt. 

“They make it hard to get to your next belt on purpose, so they know you’re ready.” 

Along with his martial arts success, the youth has managed to turn that school bully into a friend.

“Carter came to the program shy and withdrawn,” said Tittle, an Alliance officer for almost 26 years, “and now he’s one of my best competitors.”

Gurney is proud of her son’s work and calls Kick Drugs Out of Alliance “an amazing program.”

Indeed, throughout its 21-year history, KDOA has helped hundreds of youngsters find their self-confidence, develop self-discipline and learn martial arts. Any student in kindergarten through 12th grade in Alliance City Schools can attend the twice-weekly classes free year-round, thanks in large part to Tittle’s fundraising.

The goal is to give children and teenagers, many of them from low-income families, the skills and self-worth to say no to drugs and gangs, said Tittle, who will be honored at the Law Enforcement Conference this month for his volunteer work.

Former Alliance Police Officer Jeff Helaney and Tittle started the program during a particularly rough time for the city.

“Our narcotics units and SWAT teams were endlessly working to get drugs off the street,” said Tittle, now 48 and a father of four. “So we were going to come into the schools and hit it from the other end by teaching kids a skill that teaches self-discipline and respect, and see if that would help in the community.” 

In 1998, the year the program began, Alliance — a city of 21,900 residents about 20 miles northeast of Canton — ranked fifth nationally for crime per capita, Tittle said. 

“Now we’re not even on the charts,” he said. “We like to think we’re part of that.”

Martial arts — chung do kwan taekwondo, jujitsu and aikido — make up the core of the class. But Tittle and a handful of other instructors also talk about drugs, bullying, community safety — lessons kids need to stay safe and become leaders.

Alliance Police Officer Roy Tittle helps a girl work on her kicks.

Alliance Police Officer Roy Tittle will be honored with the Distinguished Law Enforcement Community Service Award on Oct. 9 at the Ohio Attorney General's Law Enforcement Conference in Columbus.

See more about his program at this link.


“We teach them schoolwork comes first,” Tittle said. “So if we have students who are falling back in school, we offer them tutoring.”

Karen Alex of North Canton drives her 15-year-old son, Logan, 30 minutes for the KDOA class. Because the family lives outside the school district, they pay $75 a year.

“The discipline, the fitness, the self-confidence,” she said, listing what her son gains from the program. “They’re learning a way of life — to keep working at something even when it’s hard and to find the benefit within.”

Logan, a blue belt, led a small group of younger students during a recent class. As the students progress, they’re tasked with helping to teach the younger kids, both in martial arts and life skills.

Parents are strongly encouraged to stay for classes and to volunteer with the program by, say, fundraising or planning holiday parties. 

“We hand out pamphlets and stuff to the parents to give them ideas for how to stay involved with their kids,” Tittle said.

“I love when parents bring a new student in,” he said, “and they’re like ‘Oh, my kid has ADHD, good luck,’ or ‘He’s very shy; I don’t know if this is going to work for him.’ And within a few months … I’ve got them where they’re doing everything they’re told to do, (and) their grades are coming up in school, because they’re starting to have that confidence and discipline.

“But the key is getting the parents involved.”

Tittle, who grew up in Alliance, knows what martial arts can do for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He started training in jujitsu at the age of 6.

“I was — nowadays they would consider them ADHD kids, but back then they just called you hyper,” he said.

His longtime teacher, George Saba, taught Tittle discipline and respect, and how to take care of kids in need.

“At one point, my dad was really sick and we couldn’t afford to go anymore. Mr. Saba told me, ‘You come and help clean the dojo, or the gym, and I’ll train you.’ And so I stayed with him — he died in 1986. By that time, I was a black belt.”

Tittle went on to join the Army and then the Alliance Police Department. He has remained a leader of KDOA from the beginning; his two youngest children are current participants.

One of the longtime instructors, Benjamin Thompson, a fourth-degree black belt, admires Tittle’s precise moves and his way with kids.

“People will say that the most advanced thing you can do is the basics consistently,” Thompson said. “His grabs are perfectly consistent every time, and when you combine that level of skill with the fact that he is a phenomenal instructor, … he can see where that student is, what they need to know and say it in a way that they can understand.”

Put another way: “Mr. Tittle’s fun,” Logan said. 

Or, as Carter described him: “He’s a really good instructor.”

And Thompson’s  assessment: “He’s the guy I want to be when I grow up.”

The 31-year-old said that only partly in jest. He has looked up to Tittle since joining Kick Drugs Out of Alliance as a 10-year-old a few months after the program started.

“He had every opportunity to do whatever he wanted as far as run the streets,” Tittle said. “But he stuck with the program, and he’s going for his master’s rank soon, so he’s got a lot of dedication.” 

Thompson, who also runs a martial arts school in Sebring, said, “The best thing I can do is pay forward what’s been paid into me, largely by Mr. Tittle.”

Seeing Thompson and other students succeed is the main reason that Tittle continues to dedicate multiple hours a week to the program. 

“It’s one of those things where, if you quit or you walk away, you’re walking away from a bunch of kids,” he said. “And I don’t want to see us fall backward, into the kids doing irresponsible things because they don’t have somebody to guide them.”

Tittle and Thompson ended the recent class standing before the dozen or so kids on the competition team, some of whom would test for their next belt two days later.

“Have confidence in yourself, OK? Confidence is everything,” Tittle told the kids. “Not too much confidence. Don’t be ego-driven, but have confidence in your abilities. We watch you in class; you got this.”

“Yes, sir,” the kids responded.

“We got a bunch of new students today,” Tittle went on. “So when you come in, make sure you’re welcoming them to the program. When you see them standing off to the side, make sure you’re getting them involved. …

“You’re the role models. All I do is push papers and make sure that everything’s paid for. All right? You guys are the ones who are going to be the examples for the new students. Got it?”

“Yes, sir!”

“You make us proud,” he said. “Keep it up.”