By Kevin Kelley
As he approaches retirement as Westlake’s chief of police, Richard Walling believes that he, like the five previous chiefs, is leaving the department better off than when he became its leader.
Walling’s last day is Dec. 28. Lt. Kevin Bielozer will succeed him.
A native of Lakewood and graduate of Lakewood High School, Walling knew early he wanted to be a police officer. His father worked for the Cleveland Police Department, and two uncles were also in law enforcement.
“It’s always been in my blood,” said Walling, who noted that three of his four brothers also became police officers.
“My dad used to take me to work with him when I was a kid,” Walling recalled. He even tagged along when his father went to hospitals to interview shooting victims, he said.
Walling married his high school sweetheart, Theresa. The two have three children, one grandson and a granddaughter on the way.
Theresa’s uncle, Eddie Lewis, was an engineering inspector for Westlake and told Walling the suburb would be the place to be.
“All he talked about was how great the city of Westlake was and what it was going to become,” Walling recalled.
While serving as an auxiliary police officer in Rocky River at the age of 21, Walling took the police officer exam for an opening in Westlake. He was hired in 1980 under Chief John Fleischer.
The job turned out to be everything Walling hoped it would be.
“I couldn’t go back and script it any better,” said Walling, who also lives in Westlake. “It’s just as my uncle Eddie Lewis envisioned it as.”
Walling, who became police chief in 1995, said law enforcement has become more complex during his career. For example, technology has been used by crooks to commit e-mail fraud and other scams, he said.
“Drugs are more prevalent today than when I first started,” Walling told West Life. Police officers also deal more with individuals suffering from mental illness, he added. In the past, very few alleged victims of crimes lied, he said. Today police must verify if an alleged crime was fabricated by a disturbed individual, he explained.
Walling never had to shoot at anyone. He said he was involved in a high-speed chase in icy conditions in which both he and the suspect lost control of their vehicles. Walling regained control, but the suspect spun out and perished in the crash.
Law enforcement agencies need to look ahead to future threats and crimes, Walling said. Examples in which the Westlake Police Department did this, the chief said, were the establishment of one of the first computer forensic labs in the region. In addition, a Westlake officer first participated in the FBI’s joint terrorist task force in August 2001.
Walling said he believes he hired the right personnel and trained them well. He also said the department is known for working well with other law enforcement agencies.
“I think the Westlake police are very well-respected,” he said.
Walling said he and his wife plan to continue living in Westlake. Retirement will give him more time to work out, he said.