By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Police Officer Carrie Clites-Meader is a familiar face to residents as she patrols the city’s neighborhoods, but now she has retired after 21 years of duty.
She is the longest serving full time policewoman in the Groveport Police Department’s history. She began as a reserve officer in September 1997 and was hired as a full time officer by former Police Chief Roger Adams in March 1998. She retired on May 15.
“Chief Adams hired me and without his trust in me and giving me this opportunity for this honorable career I don’t know what I would have done,” said Clites-Meader. “I had no second career choice.”
She became a police officer to carry on the legacy of her brother, Columbus Police Officer Chris Clites, who was killed in the line of duty at age 26 in December 1993.
“That’s why I chose to retire on May 15 because it is National Peace Officer Memorial Day,” said Clites-Meader. “It has true meaning for me and my family.”
She chose to retire now so she can spend more time with her six-year-old son.
“I don’t want to miss these precious years with him because you never get them back,” she said. “We’ll go swimming, go to parks, and do other fun stuff now that I have more time. I also want to volunteer more at church and at his school. Retiring was not an easy decision. I prayed about because I wanted to get it right.”
She said a memorable aspect of her police work was interacting with kids and their families while stopping traffic and helping at the crosswalks in the school zone on Main Street by Groveport Elementary in the mornings.
“We had some close calls, especially with distracted drivers on their cell phones,” she said. “The kids and parents always said ‘thank you.’ When I retired the kids sent me letters and cards showing their appreciation. That meant a lot to me.”
She said a tough part of the job was dealing with overdose, suicide, and natural deaths.
“Life is hard,” she said. “I’m glad I could be there to comfort people who experienced the loss of a loved one through an unexpected tragedy. I’d pray with the families and just be there to do what I could for them.”
She said policing and the equipment officers use have changed dramatically over the past 21 years.
“We used to hand write our police reports,” she said. “Now it’s all done on computers and is more complex and time consuming.”
Criminals also changed how they operate.
“These days suspects will hide drugs and weapons different places on their bodies and at traffic stops suspects could have weapons in hidden compartments in their vehicles. In the old days they just hid stuff in their pants or under the car seat. Criminals have gotten more sophisticated and therefore more dangerous. That’s why our training is important because it can keep officers from getting injured or killed.”
As far as equipment changes, Clites-Meader notes the addition of body cameras, tasers, and in-cruiser computers as significant advances for police work.
“Our cruisers also used to be sedans but now we drive SUVs,” she said.
Also, police weapons have advanced in response to increased violence by felons. She said some officers carry assault rifles to combat potential mass shootings.
“In the past we just had shotguns and our primary duty firearm on our belt,” she said.
She noted Groveport has also changed during her time on duty.
“Well, it grew from a village to a city, which means more people and the potential for more crime,” she said. “Traffic has increased which means more accidents. There’s more semi-trucks, too.”
Though the town has grown, she said some aspects remain the same.
“When I’m on patrol, I like driving around and seeing the wonderful homes and beautiful flowers in the yards,” she said.
She said police work is rewarding because one can provide encouragement and positive direction for people.
“Kind words, patience, and a smile goes a long way,” she said. “You have to remember that while something in life seems easy to you, it may be hard for someone else.”
She said the 21 years went by in a “blink!”
“I can’t say enough good things about the city of Groveport, its officials, and its residents. We’re like a family and I’ll always cherish the memories. I also couldn’t have done this job without the Lord’s help, the outstanding men and women of the Groveport Police Department, and Police Chief Ralph Portier,” she said. “They are a fantastic bunch. It has been an honor to serve with my family in blue.”