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Being chief is a tough job

Melissa Topey • Dec 30, 2013 at 8:20 PM

A police chief’s job is administrative with lots of paperwork and talk of budgets but there are occasional moments back on the road. I, however, did not get to experience any adrenaline rush.


For me it was budgets, emails and surveys as I was On The Job Friday morning with Sandusky police Chief John Orzech.


Orzech’s morning starts with picking up notes and the overnight reports. “I chat with the guys” Orzech said. He reads all this and checks his emails. That is about an hour of his day.


There are a lot of meetings. “More than I expected, I also do a couple talks a month to community organizations” he said.


For two months Orzech has lived and breathed the Sandusky city budget for 2014.


For years the police department has been stable in its revenue and expenses. There is a budget crunch and Orzech has been tasked with cutting expenses. “But we are at bare minimum,” Orzech said.


There is the possibility the department will either have to cut personnel or go to the union for contract renegotiation with possible concessions. He is concerned any further cuts will jeopardize the safety of his officers.


If layoffs have to occur, the first round will be the reserve officers. “The safety of my officers is what is most important to me” Orzech said. “A third of our calls is two men calls.


If we don’t have reserve officers, two-men calls get us tied up rather quickly” So he will continue to try to fight for funding for his department.


The department is getting a new reporting system, the same system ever police and fire department in Erie County will soon be using.


The cost of the system is about $700,000. It is a necessary change but just one more thing for Orzech and his men to oversee.


We then looked over a community survey Orzech is preparing. He wants to know how the police officers are perceived in the city. The big question is how the survey will be done — will it be sent out by mail or digital media.

“We did this six years ago and we got good feedback” Orzech said.

We go and check in with the detective bureau.

Sandusky detectives Gary Wichman, Ken Nixon and Jon Huffman are supervised by lead detective Dana Newell.

Talk on Friday is mostly about the George Martin homicide. Detectives are still waiting on crucial results of DNA evidence collected at the home.

There was also an attempted Circle K robbery early Friday morning. Huffman is in the middle of an interview of one of the three young men arrested hours after the attempt.

Orzech is not the type of chief to hover and we soon leave.

“I staff my department with excellent personnel and let them do their jobs” Orzech said.

Some days he does help back up the officers, a protective vest sits at the ready on a chair in his office.

With all the tasks on his plate he jokes that it is lucky he is taller than me so I can’t see all the gray hairs he is getting.

But he admits he knew exactly what he was getting into when he officially took over as chief in April after Jim Lang stepped down.

“There was a lot of obstacles to overcome but it has been pretty positive this past year,” Orzech said with a smile.

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