Change is coming to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff Department. Interim sheriff Steven Hammett, a Solon resident with 35 years of experience in law enforcement, has big plans for the agency.
“It’s my primary objective to continue to put qualified people in positions where they can succeed,” he says, “and enhance the operations and services
of the sheriff’s department.”
Hammett’s dream of being an officer of the law began in early childhood. He credits his mother and father, who instilled the values of hard work and compassion, for his success in the field.
“Being dependable, doing what you’re told to do and having compassion for people is essential to being a good police officer,” the sheriff says.
Hammett’s career in law enforcement began in 1987 as a patrol officer for the Cleveland Heights Police Department. He served under police chief Martin G. Lentz, someone Hammett says instilled essential values such as discipline, professionalism and teamwork.
Determined to move further in his career, Hammett searched for opportunities elsewhere. That led him to the Shaker Heights Police Department, which had more resources, including unique weapons and tactics teams and multiple investigative bureaus.
Hammett joined the department in 1990. While in Shaker Heights, Hammett advanced four ranks to become the deputy chief of police, making him the first African American to hold that position. He also attended several command schools, as well as the Southern Police Institute and FBI Academy.
In 2011, Hammett was appointed to police chief of the University Heights Police Department (UHPD). When Hammett arrived at the department, he felt many policies were unenforceable and outdated. Surveys he conducted of officers’ opinions found a “lack in uniformity” and equipment among the sources of low morale. Hammett worked with the city’s executive assistant to address these issues.
“I think tightening up all of those policies and procedures made the department much more professional,” he says.
Hammett also restructured the department and spent much of his time hiring more officers, including Dustin Rogers, the city’s current police chief.
“He was always personable, professional and contained a remarkable law enforcement knowledge base while embracing teamwork, collaboration and objectivity in his administrative approaches,” says Rogers.
In 2018, after seven years at the helm of UHPD, Hammett retired.
“I had planned on getting out of police work all together,” he says, adding that after spending a few months at home,
“I realized I wasn’t done.”
He applied for a job at the Cleveland Institute of Art as the director of public safely, a newly created position. Hammett made the most of his new role, establishing policies, procedures and expectations for the agency.
When Hammett joined the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office as a captain, he once again saw opportunities for change.
“It was already professional in many ways, but I thought I could improve the department with my ideals and presence and the things I know how to do,” Hammett says.
One goal he sought was to transform the office from a municipal agency to a first responder’s department, which is more common in departments, and he believes better serves residents of the county.
In the meantime, Hammett has worked to restructure the agency, putting people in positions and places where they’ll be more likely to succeed. He’s also worked on bringing in new hires in all posts who are looking for long careers in public service.
“I’m a county resident, and I want to see this sheriff’s department operating and performing at its maximum capacity because I believe that’s what the citizens of Cuyahoga County deserve,” Hammett adds.