Columbiana police officer certified as master criminal investigator

COLUMBIANA – A city officer promoted in 2010 is now a certified master criminal investigator.

The department recently announced Rick Whitfield completed a “grueling” 200-hour training program through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA).

Whitfield is the only officer on the force with this special training, Chief Tim Gladis said.

“It’s a big deal. It’s a pretty intensive course of instruction,” he said.

According to the department’s press release, the state-run course features classes on criminal investigation, sex crime investigation, death investigation, investigation of computer crimes, Internet investigations, drug investigations and crime scene photography. It also requires practical exercises and independent study.

Gladis said Whitfield’s knowledge through the training will be especially useful on a local level with regards to fraud and Internet crimes.

“We have a significant amount of that here,” he said.

Thankfully, the city doesn’t have a high level of the other types of crimes, he added.

Gladis said the training is useful for major cases and complex investigations, which Whitfield has already had some familiarity with.

In a press release announcing the certification, the chief said Whitfield has shown a tremendous interest in working complex crimes and has “turned in some great case investigations.”

Whitfield first became involved with the department in 2000 through its Explorer Post. In 2002 he was hired as a part-time dispatcher, and from there became an officer on the auxiliary force. He became a part-time patrol officer in 2009 and in January of 2010 Gladis promoted him to full-time.

“We have thrown him in some cases and he has done very well, but this is an advanced skill set that will be handy in major cases,” Gladis said.

He also said Whitfield approached him about enrolling in the course, which he attended on his own time and mostly at his own expense.

The department did help out by covering some of his shifts so he could attend classes.

“Rick has worked hard to accomplish all this and he is a valued part of our law enforcement team. We are proud of him and I look forward to great things from Rick in the future,” Gladis said.

He also said Whitfield received a letter from Senior Law Enforcement Training Officer Wayne K. Wiggins, of the Advanced Training Division at the OPOTA, honoring his commitment to law enforcement.

“This recognition has been achieved by your hard work and dedication. Your commitment to raising the training standards for Ohio’s law enforcement community is appreciated,” Wiggins wrote in the letter, a portion of which was provided in the press release.