Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – Dozens of officials, peers and well-wishers gathered at the city police station on Thursday to welcome Shawn Baer as the new chief of the Circleville Police Department.
Baer, a 20-year veteran of the department, was sworn in by Tom Hamman, city safety director, after being certified by the city’s Civil Service Commission on Tuesday.
Baer began his career with the Circleville Police Department in 1995 and earned the rank of sergeant in 1999. He has served as acting chief since January during the medical leave of former chief Wayne Gray, who officially retired in July.
Baer said he has already identified a few goals for the department, both internally and externally.
“Internally, we have a very young department with young officers right now,” he said. “I’d like to focus on training and developing our staff so we can provide even more services and do different things. I’m really pro-training, I think that makes a difference. If these guys have all the training they need, it lets us provide a lot better service.”
Externally, Baer said one of the department’s main priorities will continue to be the battle against drugs in the city.
“Nothing has really changed as far as dealing with drug-related crimes and all of the other crimes that go along with that,” Baer said. “That was a top priority for Chief Gray and for our mayor, and it continues to be a top priority of ours.”
Baer said the department is finally back up to funded staffing levels after months of shortages and turnover. Doug Anderson, the city’s canine officer, was promoted to fill Baer’s former sergeant’s position, and a replacement road officer is expected to be in place within a week.
“From February to now, we were at the lowest staffing level we’ve been in a very long time,” Baer said. “Strategically we didn’t want to say a lot about it because we didn’t want people thinking it would be the perfect time to commit a crime, but we had detectives on the road and a great deal of overtime just to be able to staff the street with a minimum staffing of officers.”
Baer said at this point, he is hoping those issues are behind them.
“I’m pleased with the officers we’ve hired,” he said. “They’re high caliber, very professional. I really do think the citizens are going to be happy with these officers out there.”
As training and development of his officers continues, Baer said the department also has the benefit of good working relationships and resources available through other agencies like the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, various task forces and the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).
In fact, he said, even with its recent struggles, the department is well-prepared for next week’s Pumpkin Show with the help of the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office.
“That relationship with the sheriff’s office will give us a great deal of help with Pumpkin Show this year,” Baer said. “The sheriff helped us getting everything planned out with staffing and things. We will be fine because we’re working with them, and they’re helping us out.”
Baer said he intends to continue doing things he believes the department does best, such as looking for grants to pay for programs and finding ways to do more with less.
“I think that’s the mentality you’ve got to have,” he said. “There were also a lot of community programs we had done in the past that we haven’t been able to do recently, like the bicycle rodeo and programs like that. I’d like to see us get back to doing those things again.”
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal