COLUMBUS -- Retired Richland County Sheriff's Sgt. Detective Matt Mayer received the 2020 Ohio Distinguished Law Enforcement Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday in a virtual ceremony during the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Conference.
Mayer was one of nine law enforcement officers honored by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
In more than 25 years with the sheriff’s office, Mayer worked in the crime lab and as a dispatcher, corrections officer, patrolman, detective and detective in charge of major crimes. Regardless of the position, colleagues and community members commended his hard work, team-building and respect for all.
Letter writers noted that the sergeant “simply refused to quit until a case was solved” and that he taught investigators to dig deeper. Mayer also displayed standout compassion and community dedication, as underscored by his work to establish a camp for children with muscular dystrophy.
Mayer retired from duty in 2013.
"My family and our family friends are very proud of him," said Matt's daughter Mackenzie Mayer. "He is also so thankful to those who nominated and recommended him for this great award.
"He is also such a caring and hardworking person in our community and I truly believe he has dedicated his entire career to protecting and serving Richland County."
The Law Enforcement Conference is designed to keep peace officers prepared to meet the constantly evolving challenges in public safety, Yost said. Speakers and workshops educate officers on the latest developments in law enforcement partnerships, technology, trending issues, community engagement and investigations.
The 2020 conference also included training on how to lead during trying times, solve cold cases with the help of advances in DNA testing and other forensic techniques, and build trust in the communities officers protect.
The conference was held virtually in order to comply with COVID-19 protocols.
“In these trying times it has been the men and women within our public safety ranks who continue to provide us with a safe and healthy society,” Yost said. “These brave officers protect the unprotected. They are heroes as soon as they put on the badge. I’m very proud to honor the ‘best of the best’ of those who always have our backs.”
Other award recipients include:
Detective William “Jay” Gast
Toledo Police Department
In nearly 33 years with the Toledo police, Gast worked as a street cop, in vice narcotics and on the persons-crimes and cold case teams, exceling in all roles. He was honored with a distinguished service medal and medal of valor for twice saving people from burning homes; for his help putting numerous murderers and rapists behind bars, he earned letters of appreciation from prosecutors, court officials and civilians. As one judge wrote in crediting Gast’s skill and dedication: “A case can be won or lost before the crime is ever committed.”
Distinguished Civilian Leadership Award
Judge Paul Herbert
Franklin County Municipal Court
Judge Herbert started the first human trafficking court in Ohio more than 10 years ago. What began as a fundamental change in the judge’s own viewpoint has led to CATCH Court (Changing Attitudes To Change Habits), a specialty docket and program that have restored lives and changed the way women are viewed by the criminal justice system. Judge Herbert’s pioneering model has been recognized worldwide.
Distinguished Law Enforcement Community Service Award
Sgt. Mike Walsh
Summit County Sheriff’s Office
In his 12 years on community relations assignment, Sgt. Walsh has instituted more than 30 neighborhood watch groups; multiple programs to help senior citizens, including Knox Box emergency home entry; and Safety City updates to better teach children how to stay safe. The 20-plus other programs he started, among other missions, discourage teen drinking, help families facing tough times, loan life jackets and help people learn to protect themselves against fraud. Sgt. Walsh is so dedicated to his role, he turned down a promotion to lieutenant so that he could remain in his division.
Distinguished Law Enforcement Training Award
Detective Joe Weyer
Alliance Police Department
A trainer since 1996, Detective Weyer led the transformation of what was a dirt berm and shed into Alliance police’s world-class training facility, which features a 360-degree live-fire shoot house and various practice ranges. The detective is committed to providing low-cost, high-quality training to better equip law enforcement, especially in the wider Alliance region. He accomplishes that by building and mentoring a community of dedicated trainers.
Mark Losey Distinguished Law Enforcement Service Award
Cmdr. Deirdre Jones
Cleveland Division of Police
As Cleveland’s first LGBTQ representative for the Public Safety Department, Cmdr. Jones constantly works to strengthen the relationship between police and the gay community. And within the police division, the 31-year veteran (who was the first woman to supervise the homicide unit) champions improvements in the hiring and promotion process to ensure that the division reflects the city’s strengths and diversity. The commander’s work has been recognized as a significant factor in Cleveland’s perfect score for two years running on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.
Chief John Orzech
Sandusky Police Department
When Lt. Orzech was promoted to chief in 2013, community-police relations were strained. From the start of his tenure, though, the chief made it a priority to build trust. Officers have been pushed to get out of their cruisers, interact with youth and others, and humanize the badge. And Chief Orzech has led by example: He regularly volunteers in the community, including delivering food for Meals on Wheels and taking part in advocacy events such as Polar Plunge and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. The Marine veteran also is a vocal proponent for ending gender violence and has become godfather to countless children through his church involvement.
Distinguished Law Enforcement Group Achievement Award
Spcs. Jeff Smallwood and Heather Saidler and Officer Chad Koeppe
Cincinnati Police Department
Using new technology, DNA collected from a series of 1999-2001 stranger rapes was recently linked to a distant relative of the perpetrator. In a feat of dogged investigative work, the Cincinnati officers combed through 10,000 similar genetic profiles, tracing that distant relative’s DNA back to a common ancestor in the 1700s and then forward through generations to identify the rapist.
Distinguished Law Enforcement Valor Award
Sgt. William Chad Knight and Officers Jeremy Campbell, Vincent Carter, David Denlinger, Ryan Nabel and Brian Rolfes
Dayton Police Department
On Aug. 4, 2019, after a gunman began firing in the popular Oregon District in downtown Dayton, these officers took him down within 30 seconds, just as he was about to enter a crowded nightclub. Their immediate action saved countless civilians from the active shooter, who had already killed nine people and wounded 27 others. The officers went on to secure the scene and provide lifesaving assistance to the wounded, bolstering the beleaguered community’s faith in its police department.