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Criminal Justice Update

Law enforcement-run after-school program fills need in Medina County


Medina County Sheriff Terry Grice takes part in a MCPAL after-school program while he was Montville police chief. Photo Courtesy of MCPAL

Above: Terry Grice — then-Montville police chief/now-Medina County sheriff — organizes kids during a MCPAL program. Photo courtesy of MCPAL

Ten years ago, the Montville Police Department took over a small after-school program focused on a single apartment complex in Medina.

Today, that program — now called the Medina County Police Activities League (MCPAL) — is a county-wide collaboration with its own board serving more than 500 students in five school districts (when COVID isn’t raging).  Officers from the Montville, Medina, Brunswick, Medina Township and Wadsworth police departments and the Medina County Sheriff’s Office participate in the crime-prevention programming.

“The media sometimes portrays law enforcement in a negative light, and this program puts officers in a positive light with youths in an untraditional environment,” said Sheriff Terry Grice, who took office Jan. 4 after eight years as Montville police chief. “Whether it’s playing basketball, dodgeball or going on field trips, the kids come to see the officers as normal human beings. They don’t look at us as threatening in any way.”

Programming Director Rebecca Byrne said MCPAL offers:
  • Free after-school programming, including games, art activities, music enrichment (such as steel drum- and guitar-playing) and snacks.
  • Field trips to places such as Cavaliers and Monsters (hockey) games, Browns training camps, Cedar Point and the Great Lakes Science Center.
  • An Explorers program for teens interested in becoming law enforcement officers.
  • Basketball and soccer leagues.
  • A food bank that delivers to homes, which was started once leaders recognized how dependent some kids are on the after-school snacks.
Officers work with kids who attend school in their districts, said Byrne, who was a Montville Police Department civilian employee but moved to the sheriff’s office with Grice.

“Some of the magic of MCPAL is when you bring this diverse group of kids together with police officers and everyone just has fun,” she said. “Then when the kids see the officers out and about, they can’t wait to introduce their families or their sister or brother.”

Another outreach effort that moved with Sheriff Grice’s team is the Take Control Teen Driving Program.

“It’s powerful in a different way,” the sheriff said. “It is advanced, or defensive, driving for teenagers funded in part by families from our community who have lost children in car accidents.”

Take Control started as a juvenile court diversion program but was made available to all teens with the help of the grieving parents.

“Jessica, our daughter, was 18 at the time and never came home that day,” Tammy Schaffer says in a Take Control video. “If we can save one parent from getting that phone call, that’s our goal.”

Once a month, police officers who are certified driving instructors work with teens at a driving pad specially built for the program at Medina County Career Center. The young drivers practice how to navigate emergency braking, recover from a skid and evade a surprise obstacle, such as another car pulling into their lane or an animal running into the street.

“Although we operate both of these programs, we couldn’t do them without all of our other law enforcement partners,” Sheriff Grice said. “They really are a collaborative effort to make our county a better place to live.”

He also sees another benefit to working with kids: the boost it can provide to established officers.

“I think any officer who gets into this field does it to make a positive impact on someone else’s life,” the sheriff said. “There are very few professions where you can do that, and this is one of them. When officers see the positive influence they can have on kids, they realize what they’re doing really does matter.”