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New Poland chief brings plenty to the community

POLAND — The village’s police chief may be new to the position, but he brings a ton of law enforcement experience to help him continue to keep residents safe.

Don Lambert was sworn in Sept. 7 after Poland Village Council unanimously approved him as the new chief. He replaces Russell Beatty, who died unexpectedly Aug. 28.

“Russ was my boss and my mentor,” Lambert said. “He was a big brother that I could ask questions that I would ask a best friend.”

Lambert grew up in South Dakota and moved to the area after graduating high school. He attended Youngstown State University to pursue a degree in education.

“I wanted to be a teacher and a coach,” he said, “I like history and I love baseball, but the funds ran out.”

He said a friend told him about the Western Reserve Police Academy and how he could earn money while working toward a career in law enforcement. Lambert took on the challenge and attended the academy that was held at Poland Union School. He graduated the course in 1992.

While taking the course, Lambert was commissioned as a reserve officer for the Struthers Police Department.

In September of 1992, Lambert applied to the Poland Village Police Department and was hired as a part-time officer. For the next five years, he worked in the position and proved his dedication to Beatty.

Late in 1996, Poland officials applied for a Federal COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grant through the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant enabled the village to bring on two more full-time officers, and Lambert was one. He became full-time on Jan. 1, 1997.

Shortly after entering the full-time ranks, Lambert was asked if he would like to help handle investigations for the department. Lambert agreed and attended numerous classes on working with evidence and crime scenes.

“Russ liked my job performance,” Lambert said. “In 2004, he asked me to join the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force. It involved working on narcotics cases.”

Lambert was Poland Village’s representative to the task force. He took care of court documents, attended court and filed charges. He continued with the MVLETF through 2008 when Beatty asked him to do investigations full time by working with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Lambert said the DEA in this region works in a seven-county area. He said the DEA helps provide networking, schooling and learning new techniques.

While Lambert learned a lot in the arena of law enforcement, he said it was Beatty who taught him some of the most important elements of policing.

“Back in my patrol days in Poland Village, Russ would often just hop in the car and ride along,” Lambert said. “After traffic stops, Russ would ask me if I noticed certain things or the way people acted. I learned a lot from him about how to deal with people in general.”

Lambert said when Beatty suddenly died, Mayor Tim Sicafuse asked Lambert to step into the lead position until the village could get past the funeral. While Lambert mourns the loss of his friend, he is looking forward to the task before him.

“I want to take the ideas and concepts I learned with the DEA to help save money, help officers in their duties and be more community friendly,” he said.

One area he wants to focus on is going green and using less paper. He hopes to streamline the reporting process at the same time.

He also hopes to be more involved around the community. He said the Sept. 25 Celebrate Poland will be a first for him and he is looking forward to it.

“Russ was very community oriented,” he said, “and I want to keep that line of communication open for this office.”

Sicafuse said Lambert will be making $26.25 per hour.

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