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Celebrating a milestone

Coal Grove Police Department turns 120

COAL GROVE — Birthdays are always a special occasion. But when you’re celebrating 120 years, you have to go all out.

Saturday, the Coal Grove Police Department celebrated its 120th birthday with a family cookout and fellowship at Paul Porter Park. Members of the fire department and the mayor and village council also came out to help celebrate the department that was founded in 1891.

As Sgt. Gleo Runyon manned the grill full of hotdogs and hamburgers, he and Capt. Noah Simpkins talked about what makes the CGPD special.

“It’s a great department,” Simpkins said. “The best in the county.”

Simpkins has been with the CGPD for two and a half years, only a brief time compared to how long the department has been in existence.

But he said the group of officers has a strong, family-like bond and commitment to the community.

“We’re like a family,” he said. “We watch out for each other. We take care of each other.”

He also said one of the things he looks forward to each year is the Coal Grove Family Fun Days, where the police department always has a presence, interacting with families and playing with the children.

“I don’t see anyone else doing that,” Simpkins said.

Simpkins, also known as “Papa Bear” to local children, said he and the other officers frequently hand out stickers and Frisbees to the community children and trick-or-treat bags at Halloween.

Runyon has been with the department for five years and said he wouldn’t want to be an officer anywhere else.

“It’s a very good department,” he said. “I have no interest in leaving because I like it here.”

The two both agreed that the community has played an active part in the success of the police department, acting as another set of eyes and ears.

CGPD Chief Eric Spurlock said, since he became chief, he has done everything he can to make sure the department is running properly and efficiently.

“Since I’ve taken over this department, I changed everything around,” he said. “We go by the rules … We’ve got policies and procedures we go by.”

Spurlock has been with the department since 2001 and became chief in 2009.

Since then, he has implemented an auxiliary officer program, where officers in the police academy can get on-the-job training with real officers.

While they have no arresting powers, Spurlock said, they add an extra set of hands to the department. Recently, Spurlock also added a community work detail program, where villagers who want to work off fines from the mayor’s court can help clean up areas around the village, under the supervision of an auxiliary officer.

Spurlock, a life-long resident of Coal Grove, said he remembers the days when everyone could leave their doors unlocked and their keys in their cars without worry.

Now, he said, the department is always busy, handling a myriad of calls from accidents to domestic incidents and thefts.

“You never know what you’re going to have when you come in,” Spurlock said.

Mayor Larry McDaniel said he was pleased with the job Spurlock has done as chief and was glad he could celebrate such an important milestone.

“I think it’s great,” McDaniel said. “Hopefully it’s something we can do every year.”