Why would somebody who retired from the Ohio State Freeway Patrol after 26 years determine to tackle the powerful job of working Portage County’s largest policing company?
“You may’t cease being a regulation enforcement officer,” solutions new Sheriff Bruce Zuchowski, 54.
It isn’t a comfortable job, he stated, having to take up the struggle from retired Sheriff David Doak to get more cash for the sheriff’s workplace.
“Within the technique of the election, I might run into Sheriff Doak often and he would inform me that may be my largest battle — getting the funding — as a result of he tried for years and was unsuccessful,” Zuchowski stated.
So, his new job requires him to be one thing that maybe his life till now has not fully educated him to be: a politician who can persuade politicians to spend extra.
Father influenced him
Zuchowski was born in Cleveland, however his household moved to Palmyra in 1978 the place he nonetheless lives at present. His father, Bruce Zuchowski Sr., who additionally nonetheless lives in Palmyra, was a Cleveland police officer for 32 years.
“It undoubtedly set pointers so far as being sort of strict, not entering into bother, realizing there can be some penalties if we did,” Zuchowski stated.
Being the son of a police officer and a veteran, his father was a tank commander in Korea, had a huge effect.
“I at all times have had plenty of respect for our army and regulation enforcement,” he stated. “I went the route of faculty to play basketball and I don’t wish to say I regretted it, however there was one thing that, if I might have completed it otherwise, I might have gone the route of the army.”
However he did comply with his father into regulation enforcement and listened to his recommendation by selecting the Ohio State Freeway Patrol and graduating from its Columbus academy in 1991.
“He type sort of influenced me to go together with the freeway patrol as a result of they’re a really disciplined and well-respected company to begin with,” Zuchowski stated. “Second of all, if I would want to maneuver, I had the flexibility to switch anyplace all through the state with that job.”
After commencement, he began his profession on the Chardon publish, then transferred to Warren, the place he was promoted to assistant publish commander earlier than returning to Chardon. He was then on the Ravenna publish for two years earlier than transferring to the Hiram publish.
“I completed out my profession there. I used to be there for slightly over 10 years,” Zuchowski stated, including he was assistant commander for the turnpike.
He retired in 2017 and a number of other months later, was sworn in as a Portage sheriff’s particular deputy, then as a part-time deputy. In 2020, he had an opportunity to make an enormous soar up the ranks.
In 2020, approaching the tip of his third, four-year time period, Doak determined it as time to retire after a 50-year regulation enforcement profession.
“I stay in the neighborhood,” Zuchowski stated of his choice to hunt election. “My household’s right here. My spouse’s household is right here. I simply felt it was the correct factor to do.”
He ran, gained and never lengthy after taking workplace firstly of the yr, he started getting into the funding subject, saying that workers will increase, each in numbers and pay, and gear upgrades are an enormous precedence. He has stated that he’s searching for $2.9 million in further funding.
Zuchowski is searching for a 5 % pay enhance each this yr and subsequent yr for sheriff’s rank-and-file workers with a purpose to be aggressive in each hiring and retaining staff. And, he added, even when that further funding is offered, “we’ll nonetheless not examine favorably” with different departments.
For brand spanking new hires, Zuchowski stated the sheriff’s workplace is brief 10 or 12 corrections officers of what it wants to satisfy state requirements for the county jail, which not too long ago underwent a $21-million growth.
“That’s why now we have one part, one whole wing, that’s not open proper now as a result of we don’t have the corrections officers to securely keep the inhabitants if we open up that part,” he stated.
Zuchowski additionally needs so as to add two or three new deputies per shift. At most, the sheriff’s workplace has eight officers per shift, together with a supervisor, however attributable to conditions equivalent to coaching and holidays, it could possibly be have as few as 4 on the street countywide. One consequence, he stated, is that the freeway patrol usually has to deal with crashes, and even some visitors enforcement, in areas policed by the sheriff’s workplace.
“Proper now, the best way we’re, we’re stretched,” he stated. “Portage County is at all times one of many larges counties with crashes yearly within the state of Ohio; and fatalities, sadly. Not that we wish to take away from the freeway patrol’s duties, however on the similar time, if we will help by having a visitors automotive or a visitors division with just a few officers each shift who’re predominantly going on the market and proactively on the lookout for violations and for crash-causing violations, we will higher serve the general public.”
Zuchowski stated the sheriff’s workplace is speaking to the courts about utilizing elevated high-quality income to at the least partially pay for added deputies.
New gear, together with autos, computer systems and radios is additionally a precedence.
“There’s an expiration to all these items,” he stated.
Radios, that are three generations behind present requirements, are a selected concern, Zuchowski stated. He stated there are locations within the county the place deputies can not talk in any respect with dispatchers.
“There’s instances the place you might be 10 ft out of your patrol automotive and there’s zero, I imply there’s no radio in any respect between the officers and dispatch,” he stated.
Corrections officers within the jail additionally don’t have radios able to speaking with the dispatch heart. State guidelines don’t enable corrections officers to have cell telephones whereas working, in order that they have to make use of a landline to contact dispatch and can’t talk in any respect straight with deputies simply outdoors the jail in an emergency, the sheriff stated.
“These are wants versus needs,” stated Zuchowski. “For probably the most half, I really feel the commissioners perceive that.”
Zuchowski stated there have been some accomplishments already. Hid carry permits are being processed about 3 times quicker and a brand new citizen’s academy is full and scheduled to begin in Might, with one other deliberate for fall.
“They’ll really go to class to see what we do,” he stated.
He has different issues on his bucket checklist as effectively, together with making a county SWAT crew; increasing the variety of sheriff’s Ok-9s from two to 4 or 5; further enhancements to hid carry allowing; increasing the sheriff’s civil division; and bettering the capturing vary with a shelter from the weather.
“We now have lots happening right here,” Zuchowski stated. “We’ll see if it involves fruition or not.”
Zuchowski and his spouse, Amanda, have been married for almost 30 years.
“She grew up in Randolph. Went to Waterloo Excessive College,” he stated. “She’s a house bodily therapist for [University Hospitals].”
They’ve two kids; Natalie, 21, a junior at Shawnee State College and Brandon, 20, a sophomore at Muskingum College. Each play basketball, like their father.
“I benefit from the outside, searching, fishing, tenting, boating,” Zuchowski stated, including, “I’m an avid Second Modification supporter and NRA member.”
Zuchowski acknowledges regulation enforcement usually has a foul popularity lately, however he’s hoping to alter that.
“I undoubtedly wish to be a clear company,” he stated. “I want to get the neighborhood concerned, get the neighborhood behind us, to appreciate we’re working all for a similar frequent objective to ensure we may give the individuals of Portage County the most secure neighborhood we’re in a position to.”
Reporter Jeff Saunders might be reached at email@example.com.