Pickerington's new police chief said he intends to ramp up community outreach and oversee the establishment of a citizen police academy.
After a March 20 announcement by City Manager Frank Wiseman, Pickerington police Cmdr. Tod Cheney was promoted and sworn in March 25 as the police department's chief.
Cheney has been with the Pickerington Police Department since being hired as a patrol officer in September 1995.
Prior to that, he spent less than a year as an auxiliary deputy with the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office, and since joining the Pickerington Police Department, he was promoted to sergeant in 2008 and commander of the Patrol Division in 2015.
"The city manager had asked if I would be interested in the position," Cheney said. "I expressed some interest in hopefully being considered as a possible candidate for the chief."
Cheney, 45, replaces Mike Taylor.
Taylor served nearly 16 years as chief before going on leave Jan. 22 amid allegations via anonymous emails that he had made homophobic, racist and sexist statements to police staff. He officially retired Feb. 19.
A planned investigation into the accusations was called off, Wiseman said, after Taylor stepped down.
In taking over, Cheney said, he doesn't believe there's any culture of systemic problems related to the allegations against Taylor.
"Let's put it this way: If I ever, ever had anybody from the public give a formal, 'Your officer said something racially motivated,' I would be very surprised," Cheney said.
"Since I've been a patrol commander since 2015, I have never had an actual formal written complaint from anybody related to either civil-rights violations, race-related complaints -- none.
"Nothing written since I've been here, which is almost four years in this position. No, I don't believe there's a culture issue."
Cheney said he doesn't anticipate making any sweeping changes to how the department operates, but he hopes to expand "community policing" efforts. That will include reaching out to businesses, faith-based organizations and residents to enhance communications and trust between officers and the public.
"That's not necessarily the enforcing-the-laws part of law enforcement. It's 'let's get into some businesses, let's talk to people.'
"That can obviously lead to good relationships where we find out things that are happening in the community, but it's also building relationships and trust even more in the community.
"Reaching out and expanding our community policing will be one of my big goals."
The department also is expected to implement a citizens police academy over the next year that will allow adults in the community to take part in training and education programs that give them a better understanding of police officers' roles and duties in the community.
A 1992 graduate of Pickerington High School, Cheney said he has aspired to reach a leadership position such as chief of police for many years.
He said he's well-prepared for the job, in part because of his law enforcement education and training.
That includes serving as K-9 officer for eight years and being a graduate of the University of Virginia's FBI National Academy, the Police Executive Leadership College and the Ohio State University Public Safety Leadership Academy.
"Commander Cheney has an outstanding record and impressive credentials," Wiseman said. "He is well-known and respected in the community and we look forward to working with him in his new role as chief of police."
According to Pickerington finance director Chris Schornack, Cheney will receive an annual salary of $111,009.60. The city also will pay $47,642 for Cheney's annual employee benefits, which include insurance and pension contributions.
After officers are hired to fill vacancies and others are promoted to new roles, Cheney will be in charge of 34 full-time officers and 10 dispatchers.
"We have a very good foundation here," he said. "This is a pretty well-oiled machine.
"We get a lot of respect from the community here. It's just my job now to drive the car, so to speak. I don't need to make any drastic changes."