Sunday, November 27, 2011

East Liverpool mourning

Police Chief Mike McVay dead after becoming ill at home

November 27, 2011
By TOM GIAMBRONI - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News
EAST LIVERPOOL - "He's one of the best things that ever happened to the city of East Liverpool."
Those were words used by Mayor Jim Swoger and echoed by others to describe city Police Chief Mike McVay, who died at 12:39 a.m. Saturday after becoming ill at home about an hour before.
Police officers in East Liverpool and surrounding departments spent most of Saturday coming to grips with the death of someone who was more than their boss and colleague.
"We're kind of stunned and shocked," said police Capt. Norm Curtis, who began his career in 1974, just one year before McVay joined the department as a rookie police officer.
"I think the whole department showed up at the hospital. That shows you the kind of guy he was," said Curtis, who was named acting chief.
As word spread, officers from surrounding police departments began to arrive. "It looked like a police convention," he said of the hospital emergency room and parking lot.
McVay, 62, was named chief in 1994, and only Hugh McDermott served longer (1916-1948) in that position. He had a bachelor's degree in business administration, a master's degree in law enforcement and was a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
"He had all of the assets," Curtis said of his friend.
Mayor Swoger said he came to admire McVay and became one of his biggest supporters. He believes McVay to be the city's best police chief during his lifetime.
"We got off to a rocky start, but I came to rely on him. What most impressed me was that Mike McVay wasn't just a police chief. He was also a police officer, he was a dispatcher (when needed). He always did what needed to be done," Swoger said. "He's earned my respect."
On one Christmas Day, Swoger stopped by the police department and found McVay on duty. "Mike was there so his guys could be with their families," he said. "I don't know how you're going to replace that."
Curtis said that was typical of McVay. "Even as chief he didn't think anything of pitching in and helping."
McVay's willingness to lend a helping hand extended to other police departments. "I remember when I became chief, a couple days later he called me and wished me well and gave me some pointers," said St. Clair Township Police Chief Don Hyatt.
While East Liverpool always worked well with adjoining police departments, the relationship became even closer during McVay's tenure.
"We gelled like one huge department," Hyatt said of the two departments. "When we needed help they provided it, and when they needed help we would provide it."
This sentiment was echoed by Liverpool Township Police Chief Charlie Burgess. "I don't know where to start. From the time I started out as an officer we worked together. He always help me out," he said. "The cooperation between departments was always strong because of Mike."
County Sheriff Ray Stone was among McVay's admirers. "I thought he was a great chief, and I think he'll be missed by the entire county," he said.
City Councilman Ryan Stovall served as a police officer under McVay for six years before joining the St. Clair Township Police Department, and he said McVay was always the consummate professional in his dealings with him both as an employee and councilman.
"He trained me and mentored me through my rookie years. He always watched out for the guys, and he was easy to work with from a council standpoint," Stovall said. "He's going to be tough to replace.
City Safety-Service Director Ryan Estell said the process of appointing a new chief will take three to four months. He said the department's four captains - Curtis, John Lane, Terry Faulkner and Tom Clark - are eligible to take the chief's exam, with the chief position going to the top scorer.
Curtis, who has said he will not be a candidate for chief, was chosen by his colleagues as interim chief. "Norm and Mike have been friends for a long time, and when I met with the captains last night it was unanimous that it should be Norm," Estell said.
Officer Patrick Wright was promoted to acting captain to fill Curtis' slot. Wright finished first on the most recent captain's exam, and his promotion will become permanent once a new chief is named.

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