Criminal Justice Update
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Criminal Justice Update

Q&A: Joe Morbitzer, Bureau of Criminal Investigation


What do you bring from your 33 years with the Westerville Police Department to your new role leading BCI?

Experience in cooperating with criminal justice professionals. Over the years, I have been able to develop relationships with these professionals, not just on a statewide level but also nationally and internationally. 

What do you see as BCI’s strengths? 

Outstanding professional staff. When you ask public safety professionals about their interactions with members of BCI, they have only very positive and complimentary comments about the work ethic, dedication and commitment of the team.  

What are the areas where there is opportunity for growth?

When we look at growth, we must look into the future. If we focus on today or tomorrow, we will be behind, obsolete and irrelevant. Technology, biometrics and criminalistic behavior are constantly changing. As a result, methods of investigation and enforcement must also stay current.  

How do you see BCI’s relationship with local authorities? 

While the relationships with known agencies are cooperative, we have not done enough to promote our mission, services and skills to many agencies and the public in general. When the high-profile cases arise, BCI is mentioned but never to the degree deserved. I also believe that staff should be recognized and thanked for the services provided day in and day out. I guarantee that Ohio residents don’t understand or appreciate the amount of work conducted by staff on an annual basis and the outstanding professional services that are provided.    

What’s your management style? 

Collaborative and participatory. In my past leadership roles, the greatest and most successful concepts were a result of frontline staff. While there are times for crisis leadership when things must be decided in an instant, I believe in cooperation and partnerships.  

A prime example of the power of collaboration is the annual Ohio Law Enforcement Summit. Historically, the Attorney General’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police worked together reactively, meaning there had to be an event to bring the groups together. That is until the Highway Patrol’s Col. Paul Pride, Sheriff Mike McCauley and I sat down together to form a more proactive approach. What resulted is the annual Ohio Law Enforcement Summit.

Today, the two-day summit with representatives from all of those organizations is held to address contemporary issues in law enforcement. 

When did you first know you wanted to be a law enforcement officer?

When I was a youngster growing up. We always played sports in the streets and neighbors would call the police to move us off the streets. We had a district officer who would move us to a side street, take off his duty gear, lock it in his trunk and spend time not just playing sports with us, but also providing direction and mentorship. 

Why do you want this job? 

This is a fantastic opportunity to work in an extremely professional organization. I am truly fortunate and blessed to be given this opportunity. We will make it our mission to be the state investigative organization that all other states look to for progressive, dynamic processes and actions.

Bio box 

“Westerville, but I grew up on the south end of Columbus.”

Family: “My No. 1 supporter is Gina Bentle, my significant other. I also have three great adult children: Joel, Alexandra and Gabrielle.”  

Education: Father Joseph Wehrle High School in Columbus; associate and bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia Southern University; F.B.I. National Academy, where he completed work on obtaining a master’s degree

Past roles: Chief of Police in Westerville since 2005; 33 total years with Westerville included leading each of the five bureaus and serving in many capacities; Deputy with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office — highest rank: Corporal; Past President of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police; roles on state boards, panels and commissions for the Ohio Legislature, the Governor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office