“There were not a lot of applicants but there were several good ones,” he said.
Following his oath of office, Piccioni’s wife, Jennifer, pinned on his badge and his parents, Patrick and Suzanne, pinned the eagle pins onto his collar. Also on hand for the occasion were his son, Patrick, and daughter, Kaytlyn.
Piccioni has been with the Oxford Twp. department for 20 years and had risen to the rank of sergeant when he was named interim chief last year after Chief Goins’ sudden death. He praised the support of area chiefs with helping him in that role and will soon be attending an Ohio training program for chiefs of police.
He is a graduate the University of Cincinnati with a degree in criminal justice and graduated from the Great Oaks Police Academy. He followed an unusual path to the township department. While many new police officers start with part-time jobs with smaller departments, such as a township, Piccioni started as a police officer for the city of Middletown, where he lived, and left after 10 months to come work for Oxford Twp.
“I lived in Middletown since 1981 and that was my first police agency. The area up here was a bit of culture shock. It’s all rural up here but my whole upbringing was Community Oriented Policing, especially in the academy,” he said. The smaller community here allowed for more of that than the Middletown department where an officer may handle 28 to 32 calls per shift, reducing time available for interacting with residents. “In Middletown, there was not much chance to get out into the public then.”
Oxford Twp. policing, however, has been much more to his liking. It has a much more personal feel and gives him the chance to meet people and talk with them.
“I go to Speedway in the morning and talk to people going to work or getting off late shift. I visit people in their homes, sit down with some orange juice while they have their coffee. That, to me, is what we should be about,” he said. “Without it, we cannot do our job.”
Being named interim chief, Piccioni also called it a bit of culture shock from what he was used to but feels he adapted well with plenty of help and support, although quickly adding he admits there is still a lot to learn.
He did not just use the opportunity as a fill-in position, but worked to add some innovations of his own. A planned Halloween party at the Hueston Woods dam had to move inside at the Lodge due to unfavorable weather forecasts for that day. It proved popular among residents who took part and Piccioni said he is grateful the Lodge stepped up to move the party inside. He said he is going to do the party again this year, but is giving serious thought to planning it as an indoor event to avoid last-minute moves. The department also collected donations of food to fill a police cruiser to donate to a food pantry over the holidays. That, too, is expected to continue.
“I want to keep the Christmas coloring contest going, too. It was started by Chief Goins and his wife and I want to continue it,” he said. “We should have something this summer and I am thinking about the National Night Out. I hope we can take part in more city and school district events.”
More immediately, however, is bringing the department back up to full strength. He has a new fulltime officer starting on the job today and there are two other applicants going through the process. He still has openings for two fulltime positions, one of them his former spot vacated by the move to chief.
He said the work is slowly coming along but they are getting there, to full staff.
Piccioni recognizes he is a bit unusual in staying with a township department for so long, while many young officers are looking for fulltime employment with larger departments and keeping a full staff is always a challenge for the township. That does not bother him, however. He sees it as the natural order of things.
“We’ve had a lot of great people through our doors. They move on to Oxford Police, Miami University Police, Cincinnati Police Department, the Warren County Sheriff’s office, even the Indiana State Police,” he said, noting one former officer moved to a supervisory position in Chicago and stays in touch with him. “We train ‘em well. We can’t blame them. I wish them well.”
He has already implemented an increased training program for township officers, including officer wellness training in conjunction with the Oxford Police Department.
“It helps them deal with high-stress situations. Officers can admit themselves to the training. Responding to infant deaths and traffic fatalities is difficult,” the chief said. “It will get people the help they need.”
Township officers are now being set up with new body cameras. The original ones, from 2014, are being replaced with new units provided by a state grant. He is in favor of use of body cameras, calling them a “great tool” for officers in the field.