After weeks of assistance from other central Ohio police forces, the Westerville Division of Police is beginning to return to what Chief Joseph Morbitzer termed its "new normal."
Since the deaths of officers Eric Joering, 39, and Anthony Morelli, 54, on Feb. 10, Westerville has relied on the help of nearby departments to pick up some hours.
Joering and Morelli, were shot and died of their wounds after responding to a domestic violence call Feb. 10 in the 300 block of Cross Wind Drive. Quentin Lamar Smith, 30, has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder.
Columbus Division of Police personnel helped coordinate the investigation into the shooting, while dozens of nearby departments have provided officers to keep up patrol during Westerville officers' leave and attendance at events in honor of Joering and Morelli.
Morbitzer said at a press conference last week that the support was never more evident than when he saw countless agencies represented in a procession through city streets after the officers' funerals Feb. 16.
"We are so blessed here in central Ohio to have the cooperation of law enforcement that we have," he said. "You've seen the departments that are working our streets. ... We've had departments from all over this region working our streets, so our streets have been protected."
More than two weeks after the shooting, city spokeswoman Christa Dickey said the department is "about 95 percent back to normal rotations" of its officers.
"We have a couple officers who are out on injury leave, but we've definitely taken a look at what reordering needs to be done in patrol," she said.
In last week's press conference, Morbitzer said one of his main goals was to not rush any officers back to duty. He said some wanted to come back to work the day after the shooting, while others weren't ready for several days, which was fine with him.
"Keeping in mind that this is still fresh," he said, "one of the things we're trying to do more than anything else is to minister to our own folks and really sit back and process with them, because different people handle recovery differently."
Dickey said the department is operating at an acceptable level and has shifted duties to cover important areas. But it's not complete, and long-term solutions will be needed.
"We're obviously going to be short-staffed for a while, so there's that consideration," she said. "They have to obviously replace our two patrol officers, so that's the long-term strategy."
Dickey said the department, like most in central Ohio, has "mutual-aid agreements" with other departments. The agreements pledge help for departments that are under stress.
But she said the city isn't just seeing help stemming from such agreements.
"We're also still getting lots of visits from other agencies, too," she said. "There's a family-oriented aspect of this, too. They're making sure the department has what it needs."
And in its time of need, Dickey said the city has had no shortage of help.
"We've had nearly every community in central Ohio help us out over the last couple of weeks," she said.
Jeff Spence, Gahanna's interim police chief, said Gahanna police have participated, and will continue to participate, in events honoring the service and sacrifice of Morelli and Joering.
"As an agency, there is no greater calling than 'Being There When Needed,' which is the motto of the Westerville police department," Spence said.
"To provide aid during this time of unconscionable grief, members of the Gahanna Division of Police, alongside law enforcement partners from throughout central Ohio, will be providing police services to Westerville without diminishing our responsibilities to our own communities."
He said the outpouring of support for the members of Westerville's police force, and his own colleagues, has been extremely humbling.