By Kevin Kelley
When Patrick Nealon joined the city’s police force in 1977, the only equipment patrol cars carried were four-button radios and a shotgun.
The increased use of high-tech equipment, such as laptop computers, speed-detecting radar units and automated external defibrillators, in patrol cars has been one of the most significant trends the Fairview Park police chief has witnessed during his law enforcement career.
“The one thing that’s the same are the people skills needed,” Nealon said, adding his view that the most successful officers are those with good people skills.
Nealon, who yesterday submitted a letter to Mayor Eileen Patton announcing his plans to retire in October, said it was the study of psychology that led him to a law enforcement career.
A native of Avon Lake who attended St. Joseph Grade School and St. Edward High School, Nealon majored in psychology at Cleveland State University after serving in the Army. A psychology course on worker satisfaction levels, combined with conversations with a neighbor who served with the Cleveland police, led Nealon to a career in a blue uniform.
One aspect of the job that appeals to Nealon is the variety.
“You just don’t know what the job will bring you,” he told West Life.
Except for having a few suspects take a swing at him while resisting arrest, Nealon never had any close calls and has never been injured on the job.
By the time Nealon became police chief in 1990, community policing – the concept of the police force working together with the public to increase public safety – had become popular in the law enforcement field. Nealon said he implemented the idea in Fairview Park by writing a mission statement for the department that called on members of the force to “affirmatively promote, preserve and deliver a feeling of security, safety and quality services” to the community.
“The core of community policing is problem solving,” Nealon explained. The goal, he said, is not just to arrest perpetrators, but make homes and businesses more secure against crime and help individuals become less vulnerable to crime.
Nealon, 63, seems proudest of the force he has helped assemble, saying he has hired officers who bring attitudes in line with good community policing
“We’ve worked extremely hard to get good people here,” he said.
Nealon said he and his department have enjoyed good relationships and cooperation with area police forces and law enforcement agencies, as well as the mayor, her administration and City Council.
Asked what advice he’ll give to his successor, Nealon replied he’d only give advice if asked.
“I really don’t think I’ll have to give much advice,” he said, noting that each of the three Fairview Park officers who took the civil service test for the chief’s job July 16 has decades of experience with the department.
Once he retires, Nealon plans to continue teaching criminal justice courses as an adjunct professor at Lorain County Community College. Nealon and his wife, Leslie, also plan to spend more time visiting their four children – two of whom live out of state – and two grandchildren.