Pataskala's interim police chief will become full time Aug. 31.

Pataskala's interim police chief will become full time Aug. 31.

Mayor Steve Butcher is expected to swear in Bruce Brooks at 3 p.m. Aug. 31 at the police station.

Pataskala City Council confirmed Police Chief Bruce Brooks earlier this month, after he stepped into the chief's role in January. He replaced Chris Forshey, who accepted a voluntary early retirement deal in November and said he wanted to help the city's budget.

Brooks, 43, has lived in Pataskala for 15 years, since going on some ride-alongs with a friend to see the community.

"When I started, we were a village of about four square miles," Brooks said. "When you came out to work, you'd literally drive every street in the village. You had a lot more time to talk to people. It was a lot slower."

Brooks has been married for 21 years to Yi-ping, who works in information technology for the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio. They have a 20-yea- old son, Eric, and a 15-year-old daughter, Sara.

Brooks was born in Columbus and grew up in Whitehall. He has connections to Athens, where his father and grandfather were auxiliary police officers.

"I've always thought of it as a respectable profession and something I could do," Brooks said.

In addition to Brooks, the police department has two lieutenants and 12 patrolmen, along with nine auxiliary par- time officers.

Brooks said the department is down from a high of 21 full-time employees, some who left because of budget fears.

Brooks has seen the community grow since the mid-1990s.

"Once we merged (with Lima Township in 1996), there were a lot of farmers who sold off land, and we had a lot of development," Brooks said. "If we had nothing else to do, in an eight-hour shift, I doubt if an officer could drive every street in the city. We went from four square miles to almost 40 square miles.

There is so much more to cover and so much more to learn. We're so big as a city. Your Whitehalls and maybe Reynoldsburgs are probably seven, eight, 10 square miles. Out here we have 100-acre farms, along with our housing. It's a broader mix. It can cause issues, but it's also interesting."

As a department leader, Brooks sees more growth coming, he said, including two development plans that recently crossed his desk.

"When I got the first one, I thought, 'Why am I getting a development plan?'" Brooks said. "But it's good to have everyone know about it a heads-up type thing. There might be situations we can see that they might not see."

With such growth and limited staff, Brooks wants city residents to be familiar with the police department and to call, he said.

"That development is going to pick up and increase our load," he said. "With two and three officers out at a time, you can't be everywhere. We do rely on people calling us."

Brooks is also comfortable with technology from Homeland Security and other sources that help the city keep up with technology.

"Court cases pretty much dictate what is acceptable in the law-enforcement world," Brooks said. "If it were something I didn't find morally correct, I'd push to stay away from it. But there was a decision a few years ago; a law-enforcement officer could run plates that were just driving down the road. If an officer wants to do that, I don't have issues with that."

The city also relies on mutual aid from the Licking County Sheriff's Office and from the city of Reynoldsburg.

"There's a lot of give and take there," Brooks said. "It's different-colored uniforms, but it's still a police uniform."