Ralph Portier to retire April 28 as Groveport's police chief

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Ralph Portier will retire April 28 as Groveport police chief. Portier, who is the department's fifth chief, was hired in 2009.

Ralph Portier’s life as a first responder began 50 years ago in eastern Ohio. 

The young paramedic had friends who were deputies with the Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office, so naturally, they encouraged him to join the ranks as a reserve deputy in 1976. 

“Obviously, if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today,” said Portier, who will retire April 28 after serving as Groveport’s police chief for more than a decade. 

While he knows it’s the right decision to leave, it was a difficult one. 

During the week of Thanksgiving 2019, Portier, 70, was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer, almost 10 years after defeating prostate cancer. 

While the pancreatic cancer so far has not “recurred” following surgery, he said complications related to the illness have limited his ability to serve the community and the men and women of the police force. 

“I wanted to go through August and fulfill my contract, but I’m down to 114 pounds, and I’m losing weight,” he said. “In my condition, it just makes me unable to fulfill my duties as chief. If I had to go out and assist the officers, I could not do so, and that’s not fair to the community.” 

Mayor Lance Westcamp is charged with hiring a new police chief, per the city charter. The search, he said, will be from within the department of 23 commissioned officers, and a decision could be made “within a couple of weeks.” 

Westcamp hired Portier in 2009 as the city’s fifth police chief. 

“When I hired him, we had all the people in place, I just needed a leader, and he stepped right into the role and the officers followed him,” Westcamp said. “He’s the best community leader. He’s always out among the public. He doesn’t need to be in the office; he wants to be out in the community.” 

Portier came to Groveport via the Pickerington Police Department, where he started in 1992 and eventually achieved the rank of commander. 

He also served as a Guernsey County commissioner from 1981-1988. 

“Ralph definitely transformed our department into one that is more community-oriented,” Groveport City Councilman Ed Dildine Jr. said. “There are a lot of positive interactions between the residents and the police force. He definitely is leaving it a better place than he found it – not that it was that bad to begin with, but a positive influence goes a long way.” 

Portier’s impact has stretched beyond Groveport. 

For more than 30 years, he has served as an instructor and subject-matter expert for the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, Central Ohio Technical College and Eastland-Fairfield Career and Technical Schools. 

Portier plans to continue lecturing as long as his health allows. 

He also works to bring awareness about police suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder, providing a half-day course titled “Dying in Blue” that teaches participants critical incident stress awareness and the warning signs of suicide among first responders. 

“There’s so much dark in first responders’ lives that it’s hard to talk about,” Portier said. “That’s not for me, because I’m very open about it.” 

Portier remains open about his illness, too. 

The nature of pancreatic cancer is aggressive “and the next month it can show again,” he said. 

As he reflects upon his career as a first responder, Portier said he won’t “let the dark outweigh the bright.” 

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