Ryan Warfield is settling into his job as Oberlin’s new police chief and eager to make his face a familiar one around town.
“I want to be able to go to the grocery store and hear someone say, ‘Hey chief, how ya’ doin’?’” he said. “I plan on being here the next 10 or 11 years and people need to know that. They need to know that I’m not going to be here a year and gone, two years and gone, three years and gone.”
He follows the Golden Rule model — treat people like you want to be treated. For Warfield, that means getting out of his police cruiser, walking downtown, and popping into businesses and schools.
With a new city manager, a new college president, new faces within the Oberlin schools, and now, a new police chief, Warfield said he got the job at the perfect time because “everybody is new and we can conduct an experiment where Oberlin could be like no other community.”
A healthy mix of excitement and apprehension has followed him to his new position, but Warfield said he is finally starting to swim on his own a bit.
At 52 years old, he followed the advice he gives his three sons: “Dare to dream.”
“This could be something great for me or this could be something bad,” he said. “But this is looking to be something great for me and I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t dare and try it.”
“Imagine what it would be like to be policed by you,” is another mantra Warfield lives by, one he learned from Wellington police chief Tim Barfield. When his police officers make a traffic stop or respond to calls, he wants them to think about how they talk to people.
“If I can get this done, then I’ll quit,” he joked. “I want my guys to be able to talk to you like they would talk to their mom or their dad. I think that would foster a healthy respect for the police and the community.”
Warfield wants to prioritize community policing, which doesn’t mean handing out baseball cards and comic books and giving tours, he said. It involves problem-solving and building ties with members of the city.
For five years, he worked in Elyria’s neighborhood impact unit, getting to know residents in high-crime areas. After surveying the community and earning its trust, the unit was able to find solutions to the underlying conditions contributing to public safety problems, he said.
Making sure all of Oberlin’s police officers are trained is another priority for Warfield. He wants to send his 18 sworn officers to both a leadership and community policing school.
A former Elyria police sergeant, he was sworn in Nov. 20 with a salary of $100,000 per year.
Warfield was city manager Rob Hillard’s choice from a group of seven finalists and 16 applicants.
Three Oberlin police sergeants — Patrick Durica, Melissa Lett, and Steve Chapman — questioned whether the hiring process was fair to all candidates. They sent a letter to council in October calling Warfield the “least qualified candidate” for the job.
Warfield said he was understanding of the apprehension, but chose not to participate in any of the resistance.
“It is what it is now,” he said. “I have to move past it. If I held grudges like that, I would not be good for this job anyway. So it’s time to put on our big boy pants — even the people that were upset — and move forward.”
Warfield is a former Oberlin resident. He lives in Lorain now but said he would love to move back to truly be a part of the community.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.