12/07/10 — Mount Olive police chief announces plans to retire next year

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Mount Olive police chief announces plans to retire next year

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 7, 2010 1:46 PM

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Chief Ralph Schroeder

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive Chief of Police Ralph Schroeder, 54, has announced he will step down March 1 from the office he has held for the past three and a half years.

A native of Lorain, Ohio, Schroeder has spent the past 32 years with the department.

"It just kind of felt like it was time," he said. "I have loved what I have done. I have seen some sad times and a whole lot of good times and have never regretted working for the town. The town has been good to me. After 32 years, it is time to let someone younger and newer take over."

Schroeder said he wants to travel some and to spend more time with his family. Police work is demanding, he said.

"You can't leave it (the job) at the door when you walk out," he said. "The middle of the night you have a shooting here or something over here, it affects your family, too."

Schroeder said he has talked to Sheriff Carey Winders and hopes to work some as a bailiff and special deputy.

He met with his officers last Thursday to tell them about his decision. He has spoken with Town Manager Charles Brown as well.

He announced his decision to the Mount Olive Town Board Monday night.

Many of the board members shared their own memories of working with the chief, after thanking him for his years of service.

For Commissioner George Fulghum, his memories of the chief go back a long way, to the time when he was a boy and had a minor run-in with local law enforcement.

"I've just got to give you a hard time. You've been on the police force my entire life," Fulghum said.

And he hasn't been caught playing with fireworks since Schroeder caught him back then, Fulghum joked.

The town was fortunate to have Schroeder working to protect its citizens for so many years, Commissioner Gene Lee said.

"You're one of the best we've ever had," he said. "Been very good as far as the town is concerned. He's looked after everybody in the town. He's been a good chief."

The chief shared a few memories of his time with the town, too. The very first person he ever chased in Mount Olive was Commissioner Ray Thompson, while Thompson was driving fast to reach the rescue squad station in Mount Olive.

It took a quick call to his sergeant to realize exactly whom he was chasing, Schroeder said.

"'You might want to turn your lights off, Mr. Ray is going to the rescue building,'" he recalled the conversation.

Schroeder said he would support the appointment of Assistant Chief Brian Rhodes as chief.

"He would be next in line," Schroeder said. "I think he would make a good chief. He has about 27 years in police work."

Schroeder said he knew from the start that he could depend on Rhodes after they responded to a disturbance involving a drunk and disorderly person.

"We are having to deal with him and the guy was getting to the point that we were going to have to start wrestling him to get him under control," he said. "Brian was better than I was in that he can see without his glasses. I can't see without my mine. I looked over and Brian had thrown his glasses in the corner. I thought at least I know he is going to fight; he isn't going to worry about his glasses. We ended up having to fight."

Schroeder also has delivered two babies while on duty -- something he said is more frightening than having to fight.

Schroeder, who joined the Air Force after high school, was stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base from 1975-79. It was while there that he met his future wife, the former Brenda Best, on a blind date. They have been married 33 years.

He traces his love of police work to an uncle who was a lieutenant in the Lorain Police Department. He read about the Mount Olive opening through a newspaper ad.

The Schroeders have a daughter, Heather Schroeder of Mar-Mac, and two sons, Patrick Schroeder, who works with the state Department of Transportation and Robert "Bobby" Schroeder who is employed with the Wayne County Department of Social Services. Patrick and his wife, Shanda, have a son and are expecting their second child in March.

Despite the demands of his job, Schroeder has found time to volunteer as a coach for the Hurricanes youth football program for 20 years and has been a volunteer with the Mount Olive Rescue Squad for 22 years

There are aspects of the job that he said won't miss, including administrative duties like preparing budgets. Just recently the town laid off the newest member of its 16-officer force in a budget-cutting move.

Schroeder said he has seen many changes during his time with the department, particularly in terms of better equipment, including cars and weapons.

During his time as chief, he said that the department has taken more cases, mostly drug related, to the federal level, where sentences can be more severe. He also noted the vast changes in technology in crime-fighting. Tracing information is far faster than it was just a decade ago, he noted, with computerized files that put a criminal's record at an investigator's fingertips in seconds. Continual training is the key to keeping up with the advances, Schroeder said.

"We have done a lot of training in the past three years, a lot of specialized training -- training officer courses, radar," he said. "We have been pretty progressive as far as training. I'd like to see us get computers in cars, the mobile data terminals. It has turned into the computer age and you can get stuff faster now with a computer than before. The town is going to need it in the future."