ASHLAND -- After more than three decades with the Ashland Police Department, Chief David Marcelli will retire Friday, April 30.
Marcelli, 55, formally announced his intention to retire in early March, as the city of Ashland began accepting applications for new leadership.
His decision can largely be attributed to his pension, Marcelli explained. He had worked as long as he could with his pension “frozen in escrow,” but if he did not retire by May 2021, his pension would be negatively impacted.
“You either have to retire or forfeit it. It’s not the only reason to retire, but it makes the decision for you,” Marcelli said in a mid-April interview.
Marcelli joined the local police department 29 years ago and was promoted to chief on April 21, 2010.
Despite limited staffing, Marcelli led the department through serious murder cases -- including one involving a serial killer. Marcelli was head of the APD when convicted serial killer Shawn Grate was found, arrested and sentenced to death for the murder of two Ashland women.
“My role in any of those incidents is to make sure we have the staffing in place and the protocols are followed, and as you can imagine, that came in quite unexpectedly,” Marcelli said.
He applauded his officers for the work they did at that time. Grate was taken into custody after a woman called 911, saying she had been abducted and was being held against her will. She was rescued from the apartment, where the police then found the remains of two other people.
“The officers who handled the extraction of that individual from the house, they had one chance at getting it right,” Marcelli said. “And the way they went in there, coordinated that, it was outstanding work. (They used) a quiet, silent approach to avoid a hostage situation.”
Earlier this year, Marcelli hired the city’s 32nd officer, briefly bringing the department to full staffing for the first time in years. Retirements have dropped the APD back below their maximum staffing level again, but Marcelli was proud to hit that goal, if even only for a short period.
Low levels of staffing had affected how the department operated.
“For us we were so short staffed, it changed the way we did some things. We couldn’t be as proactive, and it could be stressful for officers,” Marcelli said.
Overtime was required, and training had to be carefully planned as to not leave the department short-handed, Marcelli said. The detectives bureau couldn’t be fully staffed, so the existing staff had to pick up extra cases.
“In a production job, if you don’t have the staff, production goes down. Our calls don’t stop. It's not like we can get by answering 5,000 of 7,000 calls for service coming in,” Marcelli said. “There were fewer people to do the same amount of work.”
While Marcelli worked to hire more officers, upgraded technology made the job more efficient.
Before his promotion in the mid-2,000s, the APD upgraded it's radio system, a change that improved communication. Marcelli could tune into what was happening in Ashland from anywhere in the state.
Later, the APD digitized the process for filing reports.
Marcelli says he’ll miss “being a part of something larger than himself” in retirement.
“It’s been an extreme honor to lead this fine group of men and women and to be part of the team for a larger 29 years,” Marcelli said. “Law enforcement is a calling. I’m happy I was called to it, and had the opportunity 29 years ago to be part of this community and to serve them.”
Though larger cases get more attention, Marcelli said most of the job has been solving problems for people.
“The term ‘community policing’ is more for a larger agency, where officers are assigned to do that. Community policing is what we do every day,” Marcelli said.
He opened a drawer to pull out a picture of a small boy at Christmastime. He’s kept it there since a local reporter gave it to him years ago. The boy was going into foster care, and Marcelli learned he hadn’t received anything for Christmas.
Marcelli arranged for the boy to receive a new coat, some toys and more. A local reporter took the picture, but Marcelli asked him to not share the story at that time. He didn’t want the credit.
“I’ve kept (the photo) here since then,” Marcelli said.
He recalled another time when officers bought two girls bikes. He had told them to go to area bars to collect donations for two bikes, but the officers pulled out their own wallets instead, he said.
Under Marcelli’s leadership, the department has held events like Shop with a Cop and Cones with a Cop, The department was recognized by the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and the Law Enforcement Foundation in December 2020
“We take any opportunity we can to interact with younger members of our community. We try to show police officers as human beings, they are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters,” Marcelli said.
Marcelli earned an associate degree in criminal justice and a bachelor's in political science from the University of Akron before joining the police academy.
He worked part-time with the Jackson Township Police Department when in the academy.
Directly before joining the APD, he went to the MEDWAY Drug Enforcement Agency, serving Wayne and Medina Counties. He worked in an undercover narcotics unit.
At the APD, Marcelli began in patrol. He moved to the detective bureau in August 1993. He worked his way up from there, serving as a sergeant, lieutenant, captain and ultimately chief.
“He’s done an outstanding job of professionalizing the agency. Everywhere I go people will tell me how much respect and admiration they have for the police department, and that’s attributable to Chief Marcelli,” Ashland’s Mayor Miller said.
Marcelli intends to spend his retirement playing golf, traveling and doing work around the house.
“It’s been my great privilege to work here,” he said about his role at the APD.
According to its website, the city of Ashland will accept both internal and external applications through April 30. An interim chief may be named during the transition.
“We have a lot of quality men and women in our city police department with the leadership skills needed, but we want to make sure we’re opening up the position to people who we may not otherwise have considered,” Mayor Matt Miller said in a March interview.
The position pays a salary of $60,000 to $96,000, commensurate with experience and includes insurance, pension membership in the Ohio Police and Fire and a paid time off package. The position allows for 120 hours of vacation, 120 hours of sick leave and ten paid holidays annually.
At minimum, applicants must:
Be certified as a Peace Officer by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Council and must maintain CEUs required by the State of Ohio
Have a valid State of Ohio Driver License and must be insurable under the City’s vehicle insurance policy
Be a resident of the State of Ohio.
Have a minimum of ten years of full-time employment as a certified law enforcement officer
Have a minimum of three years of supervisory experience
The ideal candidate will have a Bachelor’s Degree in police administration or a related field. Additionally, command and upper supervisory experience is preferred.
“We’re looking for someone who has very strong communication skills, knows how to run an organization in a professional manner and recognizes that every human life has value and deserves respect and dignity despite their situation,” Miller said.
As city mayor, Miller will be responsible for choosing the next chief of police.