After 33 years with the Westerville Division of Police, Chief Joe Morbitzer is departing to become the top cop under incoming Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

Morbitzer will serve as the next superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which is part of the attorney general's office, Yost announced Jan 4.

He will succeed Thomas Stickrath, who recently was nominated by Gov.-elect Mike DeWine to become director of the Department of Public Safety once DeWine, the current attorney general, takes office Monday, Jan. 14.

The resignation of Morbitzer, the police chief for Westerville since 2005, is effective Jan. 25.

"Chief Morbitzer is a nationally respected law-enforcement leader," Yost said in a written statement. "His service, commitment and support of local law enforcement is unmatched and make him the ideal choice to lead BCI.

"I know Chief Morbitzer will do everything in his power to provide the men and women of Ohio law enforcement with the investigative and technological expertise they need to solve crimes and keep our neighborhoods safe."

BCI, with its headquarters near London in Madison County, runs the state crime laboratory that processes DNA and other evidence, with special agents investigating and processing crime scenes to assist other police agencies. The bureau has about 450 employees.

In a released statement, Morbitzer said: "Westerville will remain my home and I will continue to work with the talented men and women of the Westerville Division of Police at any opportunity. I'm proud of the work we've accomplished in Westerville and hold great respect for the staff and officers who serve the community with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. My gratitude goes to the entire community for years of trust in leading their police division."

Morbitzer was credited with leading his department and city through the toughest of times when police officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli were shot while responding to a domestic violence-related situation Feb. 10, 2018, and died of their wounds.

Assistant Police Chiefs Holly Murchland and Charles Chandler will lead the department while the city begins the process of looking for a new leader. An acting chief is expected to be named later this month, a city spokeswoman said.

rludlow@dispatch.com

@RandyLudlow