The end of the month will mark the end of an era for a local law enforcement hero — Sgt. Randy Pohl, of the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, is retiring. Randy is one of those people you probably don’t know personally, but I guarantee you’ve been affected by his work.
For the last 30 years, Randy has faithfully served as a law enforcement officer in Ohio, many of those years right here in Delaware County. In fact, for the past 24 years, Randy has led the Delaware County Drug Task Force, fighting for our community, fighting for our families, and fighting to keep our kids safe. I count myself lucky to have worked alongside such a dedicated law enforcement officer, and I simply could not let Randy retire without taking the opportunity to speak with him about his life, his vast experience as a narcotics detective, and his unique perspective on our county. So let’s dig in.
It all started in Toledo. That’s where Randy attended law enforcement training, and it wasn’t long before he was plucked out of the group to work undercover narcotics in the Toledo area. Back in the ‘80s, officer safety wasn’t a concern. In fact, Randy can recall distinctly when things took a turn, and “the job” became a bit more dangerous. It was, he said, when crack cocaine burst on to the scene. What followed was drug dealer turf war, and unfortunately, violence.
After getting his feet wet in Toledo, and seeing firsthand what seemed to be the evolution of drugs into a more violent crime, Randy found himself relocating to Delaware where he joined another law enforcement officer on the drug task force. A relatively new initiative for our county at the time, no one could have predicted what this little two-person task force, formed in the mid-’90s, would become.
Over the years, Randy (and many others) helped grow the task force to include law enforcement from all major communities in Delaware County and beyond. To date, there are members from state and federal law enforcement partners and Homeland Security, to name a few.
Involvement in the task force isn’t the only thing that’s evolved. When Randy began investigating drugs in Delaware County, the most popular were crack cocaine and marijuana. Randy saw that trend change in late 2009 and 2010 when, he says, black tar heroin changed the game. In fact, to this day, heroin remains the most widely used drug in Delaware County. In 2019, more than 8,000 grams were confiscated by the Drug Task Force alone.
So, how does this happen? What is the “hold” heroin has in Delaware County? Well, according to Randy, most heroin users start using opiate pills. When that becomes too expensive, they turn to heroin as a cheap substitute.
Heroin isn’t the only concern in our county, though. Randy reports a re-emergence of crystal methamphetamine, but even that has evolved. As a prosecutor, I remember that quite often this simple drug possession was accompanied by other charges such as arson or illegal manufacturing. That’s because people would try to make their own (think “Breaking Bad”). As a result, personal injury was also something we saw in those cases. Today, however, injury and additional charges previously associated with meth aren’t usually there. Why? Randy says that methamphetamine today is primarily being trafficked over the border from Mexico.
Wow! That’s a lot of information. So, in addition to boots on the ground and law enforcement partnerships, how does the task force go about tackling such serious issues? The answer: You. In 2019, there were more than 1,000 tips of drug activity provided to the Task Force. Not all tips end up as part of a larger investigation, but many have resulted in drugs, weapons, and most importantly, drug dealers, being taken off our streets.
It’s hard to say just how much Randy has done for Delaware County. I can’t quantify how many leads he’s investigated or how many lives he’s saved. What I can say is this — Sgt. Randy Pohl’s retirement will certainly leave a hole that won’t easily be filled. Be it professionally or personally, Randy is leaving a legacy in Delaware County.
Earlier in this article I said the average Delaware County resident probably wouldn’t know who Randy Pohl is, and that’s true. In the criminal justice world, however, it’s a different story. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know Randy. Depending on who you talk to, you might hear any number of stories – a funny memory, a story of a hard-earned victory or memorable encounter. With 30 years of service under his belt, the common thread of those who speak of Randy is respect. He’s got the experience, and he’s lived the dedication. He’s led. He’s taught, and we are all better for knowing him.
Before I let Randy get away, I wanted to pick his brain one last time. I asked him to reflect on what seems to be a societal push toward decriminalizing drugs such as heroin and cocaine. What Randy said is something I wholeheartedly agree with. He said we can decriminalize drugs all we want, but the heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine will just keep killing because the drugs will be that much easier to acquire and sell. Ultimately, decriminalization will only benefit the drug dealer.
Regardless of potential changes to the law, one fact will always remain, and that is this — in Delaware County, we will continue to fight against drug dealers and continue to protect our children from addiction.
I know I sound like a broken record, but it really is all about our community partners like the Drug Task Force, who are on the frontlines. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes, and we owe a lot to the men and women who understand the dangers and face them head on. To them and to Randy, I hope you will join me in saying thank you. Thank you for fighting this battle for us, and alongside us.
Of course, I want to end on a positive note and wish Randy a happy and well-deserved retirement, but I can’t leave it at that, and Randy doesn’t want me to. He would like me to remind everyone that we are all in this together, and if you see something, you should say something. No tip is too small.
Of course, if you are concerned about an in-progress crime or suspicious activity, call 911. Otherwise, you can call the drug task force at (740) 833-2790 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, Randy, and right up to the end, job well done.
Melissa A. Schiffel is Delaware County prosecutor.