Starting a new role as police chief would be daunting at any time.

But beginning his stint as Grandview Heights police chief during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was "different," to say the least, said Ryan Starns.

Mayor Greta Kearns appointed Starns as police chief after the retirement of Chief Tom McCann, who served 36 years with the Grandview Division of Police, including the past six years at the helm.

Grandview Heights City Council confirmed Kearns' appointment of Starns on March 16; he began his new position March 18.

Starns, 38, joined Grandview in 2003 as a police officer and was promoted to detective in 2011 and to sergeant in 2014, supervising patrol, the detective bureau and internal affairs before being named chief.

He will earn a salary of $123,200 and receive the same benefits provided to all of the city's nonunion employees, including health insurance and paid leave, city finance director Megan Miller said.

Taking over as chief during the coronavirus crisis has provided "an interesting first week," Starns said.

"We've had to adjust some things with the mandates set by the division of health and the governor," he said. "For the time being, we're limiting our calls to respond to crimes of violence or crimes in progress."

In an effort to minimize the potential exposure of the coronavirus to officers and dispatchers, residents and businesses are being asked to call the police department at 614-488-7901 to file reports regarding minor incidents or low-level crimes, Starns said.

Despite the peculiar start, being named chief is exciting and humbling, Starns said.

"Our main mission is to improve the quality of life for all residents, businesses and visitors in our community," he said. "To do that, it's important to provide all of our street officers and dispatchers with the equipment and training they need.

"In Grandview, we also put a big emphasis on creating a partnership with the community," he said. "They need to have a voice in our effort to make our community safer."

Once the coronavirus situation ebbs and life returns to normal, Starns said, he plans to conduct a community survey to gather feedback on how the police department is performing.

"I want to find out from our residents what is important to them, whether they think we're doing a good or bad job and why, what they want to see us doing and how they think we can improve our service," he said.

One of his main goals is to have the entire division complete Crisis Intervention Team training, Starns said.

CIT training teaches officers an approach to responding to people who are undergoing a mental-health crisis.

About five of the department's current roster of 19 officers and detectives have undergone CIT training, Starns said, and he'd like to have at least half of the division complete training by the end of the year. An additional police officer has been hired and is completing police-academy training, he said.

"It's also important that we have our officers get CPR/AED (defibrillator) certification annually," Starns said. "Our officers may be the first ones at a scene and should have the ability to take some life-saving actions before our fire (and) EMS personnel can arrive."

Starns, who lives in Blacklick, worked as a loss-prevention officer for retail stores in the early 2000s before becoming a police officer.

During his 17-year career in Grandview, Starns "has been a strong public servant and has taken on just about every role at the police department," Kearns said. "He's been a leader in the force, he's a positive role model and has built a great relationship with people in our community.

"Although they have different styles, he shares the same dedication and will bring the same high level of integrity and professionalism to the job as Chief McCann," she said.

"I gave a lot of careful thought to various options for replacing Chief McCann, and it was clear to me Chief Starns was the right choice."

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