After 17 years as a Dayton police officer, Wendy Stiver recently worked her way up to one of the most high-profile postions in the department: major of the Central Patrol Operations Division, which includes downtown and the Oregon District, her own neighborhood.
We caught up with Major Stiver, our latest Daytonian of the Week.
What do you do?
What don't I do?
For fun, I work. In between, I spend a bit of time running, cycling and training for the Southwest Ohio Guns N Hoses Boxing Tournament at the Jack Casino on October 8 (tickets will soon be available at ticketmaster.com.)
I am a police officer, currently serving as the commander of the Central Patrol Operations Division in downtown Dayton, which is basically my dream job because I get to serve my own neighborhood.
What superpower would you love to have?
A normal metabolism. And the ability to prevent bad things from happening to good people.
What do you love about life in Dayton?
I love living downtown because we are literally in the middle of everything. Plus, there are amazing things happening downtown and a ton of great places to hang out. I look forward to getting out on the river next spring.
What does Dayton need?
Honestly, we need more people to talk positively about our city and encourage others to come downtown and check it out.
A few years ago, I flew into St. Louis and my seat partner spoke so negatively about downtown St. Louis that it impacted me as a visitor. Fortunately, I quickly realized that he didn't live in St. Louis and didn't know what he was talking about because I had a great weekend exploring the city. Dayton sometimes suffers from the spread of bad information. Downtown Dayton is a safe place to live and a great place to hang out.
Where do you go for a great time?
I actually spend a lot of time running distance races, preferably half marathons. I've done 26 this year.
What should people know about Dayton?
That we invented the flying. Those people down in North Carolina are bitter about that and keep trying to steal our glory.
The flying. Invented. Here.
What’s your favorite spot in Dayton?
That's a hard question. I love my neighborhood, the Oregon District. But there are so many new cool places downtown that that I haven't visited yet. I could have a new favorite yet to be discovered.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Craft beer, particularly hefeweizens and coffee stouts. And chocolate. And peanut butter. And donuts (shhhh...that one is a secret). And pizza. You now see why I have to run so much.
Why did you decide to settle in Dayton?
Initially, my family was here. My dad retired at Wright-Patt while I was away in the Army. I came here in 1997 with the intention to finish my undergraduate degree at Wright State, spend a little time with my family and move on. I came downtown and was really impressed with the development and vision, particularly with the efforts underway to build Fifth-Third Field. So, I decided to stick around a while longer and I'm glad I did. I was fortunate to be invited to join the Dayton Police Department and have had an incredible 17 years. The city of Dayton and the DPD has been very, very good to me. I've lived downtown for 17 years and am very excited to see renewed growth and development.
How did you get involved in law enforcement?
I needed a job to pay for college.
Seriously, I joined the United States Army Military Police Corps in 1992 (to pay for college) and spent 5 years not doing law enforcement. I did something called "physical security" and executive protection. I left the Army and thought I was going to finish a degree in chemistry and get a "normal" job. Well...to pay for college, I landed a part-time job with the City of Fairborn Police Department as a dispatcher/jailer and somehow ended up in the Dayton Police Academy. I really liked working with people, and I honestly wasn't very good at chemistry. My lab partner could probably vouch for that. (Sorry about that ammonia mix up again, Dan.)
What has been the most challenging part of that?
There have been a lot of challenges. Most recently, people ask me about the challenges of policing in the "current climate." I think we are fortunate to have a lot of opportunities right now to do a lot of positive things and we have the support from our leadership to spend time in the community working on relationship building. I'm excited about that because it's what I really wanted to do when I signed up for this. As a soldier, I volunteered to work with a DARE program in Northern California and a youth chapel program in Germany. When I came into policing, programs like DARE were ending as our budgets started to shrink and community oriented programs could no longer be staffed. Those things are coming back and it's a great time to be law enforcement because we have the opportunity to be creative and explore new programs and ways of connecting with our community.
From strictly the perspective of career challenges, there have been many difficult moments. Very early in my career, I was called a racist and that really stung. The person who said it did not know me and just made an assumption without giving me a chance. That stayed with me, and I learned to be cautious about making hasty judgments about others for any reason. It's a difficult thing to remember, but it's important.
I think I also became fatigued by chronic exposure to violence, death and sadness, like many other first responders. We don't like to admit that we are vulnerable or that we are emotionally affected by what we see. It makes the positive moments special. I've shared a lot of hugs with Daytonians over the past 17 years and some of them probably don't realize that I needed the hug more than they did.
What should people know about police officers?
That we are people, too. That sometimes we go home and cry ourselves to sleep because we had to respond to the death of a homeless person we know. Because we sometimes fear that we are the only people who grieve for their losses. That while my face may not show it because I have stay calm and do my job, I'm merely saving my tears for after work. That while I swore an oath and accepted the responsibilities of this job, to include using deadly force if necessary, I hope that day never comes.
How did you push through the challenge?
I run. A lot.
It took a long time, but I found the healthiest possible way to manage all of the challenges of this job and life and in general was to embrace endurance sports.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
It's going to be very, very cool.
I look forward to watching it grow.