Chief Daniel Llewellyn Reflects on 33 Years With Mentor Police
Llewellyn is retiring from the department at the end of the year
Mentor Police Chief Daniel Llewellyn will be retiring from the department at the end of this year after 33 1/2 years of service.
It will be the first time he hasn't had a full-time job since he was 20 and started working in the coal mines of western Pennsylvania near his home town of Nanty Glo.
He said he learned two things in those mines that stick with him to this day.
The first was a bit of advice he got from an older coworker when the machinery in the mines broke down.
"When the machinery broke down, you have to grab the shovels," Llewellyn explained.
So he and the coworker grabbed shovels and started moving the coal. After awhile, Llewellyn was sweating heavily and winded but the older man didn't have a bead on him.
So Llewellyn asked the man his secret.
"Remember one thing," the man replied. "You got to keep the shovel moving. It doesn't always have to be full, but you got to keep it moving."
And the other thing the chief learned in the coal mines?
He found he didn't want to shovel coal for the rest of his life, so he decided to put his 2-year degree in criminology to use.
Llewellyn has had almost every possible job at the department -- patrolman, detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain and finally chief for the last 10 years.
However, his favorite job was being a detective. Llewellyn was paired with Captain John Jaros (also retired now) in the bureau.
According to Llewellyn, Jaros was good with evidence, but he was the talker.
Llewellyn took some high-profile confessions during his time in the bureau. (To be clear, he's quick to acknowledge that a lot of police and prosecutors worked on these cases; and it wasn't just him working alone in an interrogation room.)
When Scott Grant killed and dismembered 17-year-old Michelle Hayes in 1985, Llewellyn got his confession. (Llewellyn keeps a gift from Hayes's sister, Dawn, in his office.)
When Michael Bailey shot and killed his adoptive mother and stepfather in 1990, Llewellyn got his confession.
In fact, Llewellyn received one of the biggest compliments of his life from Bailey -- though he certainly did not intend it as a compliment.
When a private investigator asked Bailey if he had any regrets, Bailey replied, "I shouldn't have talked to Llewellyn."
Llewellyn said the trick to being good at interrogation -- or a good policeman in general -- is knowing how to talk to people.
"I always treated people with respect," Llewellyn said. "You have to talk to people at their own level."
When asked what Llewellyn would miss the most about his job, he answered, "I'm going to miss the pace. I like being busy."
When asked what he would miss the least?
"The pace," he chuckled, then added, "It's the truth."
Llewellyn has no plans for retirement -- not yet, at least.
Of course, he wants to spend some time with his wife, Mary, their children and grandchildren; but, beyond that, he's undecided. He figures that he'll want to work somehow, somewhere in a part-time capacity, but he isn't bothering to sort out the details now.
"As I site here today, I don't see myself working as a police chief somewhere else," he said. "But I will work."
One thing he will not do is retire and be rehired by Mentor as occurred two years ago. When he retires January 4, he will be finished, he said. Additionally, he thinks the department will be fine without him.
"I'm leaving here with a great feeling," he said. "This is a great department."
He added that he hopes someone already in the Mentor Police Department replaces him as chief because that would re-affirm what the department has been working toward during his tenure.
The chaplain and the hardest part
Llewellyn said the worst days on the job always involved something bad happening to a child.
He remembered one time a child had been struck and killed by a car and all Llewellyn could do is try to console the parents.
"I would have loved to just sit on a curb and cry with them," he said. "But, as a police officer, you can't do that. But I was crying on the inside."
Being a police officer can be a stressful job that comes with high divorce and suicide rates.
That's why Llewellyn said he's so proud of a chaplain program that the department started. He hopes the chaplains will help the officers deal with the daily stress of the job.
"With the chaplain's program, we're trying to provide a vehicle to help our officers," he said.
The Mentor Police Department has changed a lot since Llewellyn joined in June 1979.
For one, the department has almost doubled in size. But nothing has changed police work in recent times more than the vastly improved technology.
"We recently had a bank robbery in the city," Llewellyn said. "Within a few minutes, our detective had security photos of the suspect on his iPhone, even before the case was processed."
But technology will never replace common sense or the eyes and ears of the community, Llewellyn added.
"You have to merge the savvy officer on the street who knows the players with the young people who know what to get technology-wise," he said.
Llewellyn said he regrets having to leave while the department is still adapting to so much new technology. However, he noted, the job never finishes. Sometimes, all you can do is keep progessing.
Or, keep the shovel moving, as a certain Pennsylvanian coal miner would say.
Llewellyn's retirement party will be Dec. 5 at LaMalfa Centre.
Tickets cost $45 and include a buffet and open bar. If you are intereted in buying a ticket, contact Judy Koteles at 440-974-5760.