The new lieutenant on the midnight shift at the Wapakoneta Police Department, who also was recently assigned as the K-9 handler, says he is looking forward to the extra responsibility.
“It was a goal, but it came a little quicker than I expected it to,” Joe Welker said of his newest position, which he began last week after scoring well on a written test.
He was named as the handler of the department’s new K-9, Rico, in April.
“You can’t really count on timing,” Welker, 29, said of positions and advancements in law enforcement. “Both are something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Welker said even though Wapakoneta is a smaller police department it has allowed for upward mobility and for officers to still specialize in areas of interest rather than having to rely solely on outside agencies.
“Here, we’re not just stuck,” Welker said. “We’re able to help others. Just in the last week I’ve been on three or four calls outside of Wapakoneta.”
As a K-9 handler Welker said he finds himself and Rico frequently assisting other departments, even outside the county.
“You build nice professional relationships which helps with the transmission of case information outside of the city,” Welker said. “Sometimes you can get stuck in your own little community. These relationships allow you to think beyond that.”
Welker, who graduated from Wapakoneta High School in 2000, grew up in Botkins and has been with the Wapakoneta Police Department for four years. Prior to that he served on the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office Auxillary, as a part- and full-time officer for Anna, and as a full-time officer for Jackson Center.
Immediately after high school he spent four years in the U.S. Marines serving in an anti-terrorism unit.
When his enlistment was ending, a friend convinced Welker to give law enforcement a try and it’s been a good fit ever since. In 2004, he enrolled to earn his associate’s degree in criminal justice at James A. Rhodes State College.
As for his new supervisor position, Welker said like everything in life, it’s what he expected with a few extra duties that may have been overlooked going into it. At least working on the midnight shift, Welker said he feels he may have more time for balancing his different duties, something officers on other busier shifts may not have.
Of course as the city’s K-9 officer, Welker can be called out as needed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and he takes his work partner, Rico, home with him when his shift is over.
“Most of the primary lieutenant functions I have a handle on but there are still those, such as assisting with managing the evidence room that I’m working on,” Welker said.
His biggest goal with the new position is having a positive impact on the police department, he said.
“Before it was just talk,” Welker said. “Now I can lead by example. I’m lucky to have a good shift. A lot of people at the police department make your job easy for you.”
His time spent in the Marines prepared him for the supervisory role at an early age.
“I think its made me a lot better supervisor,” Welker said. “I was in charge of triple (the number of) the people at 20- or 21-years-old.
“It makes this not such a big deal,” he said. “It’s not the first time I’ve had this kind of responsibility.”
The biggest difference he’s already found between serving as a supervisor in the military and at the police department is administrative with him responsible now for duties such as reviewing reports, scheduling and overtime logs.
With 10 to 15 years still left on the job, Welker said there’s still time to develop new career goals. He and his wife, Jessica, live in Wapakoneta.