Belpre Police Chief Ernie Clevenger has talked a man or two off a ledge in his day-literally.
But standing at the top of the Belpre Bridge on a cold December evening and convincing a man to save himself is par for the course for Clevenger, a 30-year veteran of the law enforcement field who has done and seen nearly everything.
In addition to managing the day to day operations of the Belpre Police Department, Clevenger is a volunteer for the Civil Air Patrol, a certified instructor for the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy and an FBI certified written statement analyst.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Belpre Police Chief Ernie Clevenger, left, speaks with Senior Patrolman Joseph Kirby before Kirby is dispatched to a call.
Q: What positions have you held within the law enforcement field?
A: I began law enforcement in early 1982 and was employed by the Marietta Police Department until Labor Day of '82. While a member of the Marietta Police Department, I graduated the Highway Patrol Academy for basic police officers. In Labor Day of 1982 I came to work for the Belpre Police Department as a police patrolman. I was a police patrolman until 1984 and was promoted to Sgt. of Police in April 20, 1984 and was officially promoted to chief of police on April 13, 2009. And I've served as the chief of police since that day.
Q: What does your role as chief entail?
Occupation: Belpre City Chief of Police.
Experience: Graduated Parkersburg High School in 1977, United States Air Force 1977-1981, graduated Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy in 1982 while working at the Marietta Police Department, Patrolman for Belpre City Police Department 1982-1984, Belpre City Police Sgt. 1984-2009, Belpre City Chief of Police 2009-present.
Hobbies: Golfing, computer gaming and volunteering for the Civil Air Patrol.
A: Well in a very broad spectrum, we are the person assigned to administrate the daily operations and goals of the law enforcement in the city. It might sound a little corny for me to put it this way, but in a sense, I am the air under the officers' wings. My job is to provide them with the best manpower, the best training and the best equipment I can for them to go out and do the best job they can to serve the community as a law enforcement entity.
Q: What kind of services does the Belpre Police Department offer?
A: If someone needs a home security check or a business security check, we send an officer out to review their security procedures for the building or the business or the home. We have them see what kind of security they have in the home, make any suggestions that we can to improve their security and their ability to protect their property. We also provide, when manpower permits, speakers for civic or church groups. It's not uncommon for us to have tours here in the building for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church groups, etc., and we are quite pleased to do that. I think doing so makes us a better part of the community. I like to give them a positive outlook on us.
Q: What kind of challenges does the BPD face?
A: I'd say that the BPD faces the challenges that most agencies do right now. If you look at law enforcement nationally right now there is a real budgetary crunch going on, trying to provide manpower and trying to fund the manpower. For most law enforcement entities, it's quite an endeavor to keep up with technology and provide equipment, especially electronic equipment anymore. With the Internet and technology being what it is now, it changes almost monthly. What you bought new in January isn't such a great thing by the end of the year because something better has come out. So it's really challenging to try to find durable useful equipment for personnel, as well as just provide benefits and salaries. I just read a survey this morning where they were talking about that and basically it is a national statistic now that you are trying to do more with less. Manpower is going down all around the country right now, and yet the demand for law enforcement and the expectations of law enforcement are going up.
Q: What has been your favorite aspect of being chief?
A: Probably the biggest thing for me is to see the department as a whole improve in its ability to handle case loads, in its ability to investigate cases as they come in. A higher sense of duty and professionalism, the trick is trying to keep that at that level. Since 2009, our activity per officer has probably risen close to 30 percent. Generally our officers are working now than they probably ever have.
Q: Do any specific memories stand out?
A: I could write a book of memories. I've have some good memories of law enforcement, I have some amusing ones, and I have some very morbid ones. I'm very happy I came to Belpre.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not managing the BPD?
A: In my off time, I usually visit with friends. We really don't do anything very exciting. We wind up doing movie nights, sitting around laughing and pointing at a large screen TV. Basically, just very ho-hum stuff. I do enjoy golfing. I used to enjoy horseback riding. And I am a state rated Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy instructor in two different types of academies, a unit instructor and a special subjects instructor. I am part-time employed by Washington State (Community College) to do that.
Jasmine Rogers conducted this interview.