S/Lt. Morris Hill
I’m the oldest of seven children, having grown up on the southwest side of Warren, Ohio. We saw some pretty tough times coming up but there were a lot of positive influences in our lives too. My father, Morris Sr., was one of those positive influences in my life. He was a police officer with the Warren Police Department.
My fondest memories of my dad go back to when he was a patrol officer in the late 60s and early 70s. He was physically fit and took pride in how his uniform looked. His uniform was always pressed and his shoes were always “spit shined”. Those guys wore the old eight-point hat then. They were very professional looking. My dad was also very well respected in our community. I was proud to be his son, and thought some day I would wear that uniform.
My very first summer job as a teenager was working for the Private Industry Council. I was assigned to the Warren Police Department. I cleaned the office buildings and grounds, and was even allowed to clean the police cars. This job was great because I got to be around guys just like my dad, black law enforcement officers doing a job that not too many got the opportunity to do.
All of my summer jobs were working in and around criminal justice agencies. I worked for the Warren Police Department, Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office, and Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office. There is no doubt in my mind that I was destined to work in criminal justice in one form or another.
I attended Thiel College in Greenville, Pa, where I majored in political science and planned on going to law school. I had an opportunity to complete an internship at the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office and realized that I did not want to be an attorney. I wanted to be a law enforcement officer, and applied for a job with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
I was impressed with everyone I met throughout the applicant process. My first contact was with Lt. James Cusick, who was the assistant district commander of the Warren District Headquarters. He was very professional looking, his haircut was neat, his uniform was pressed and his shoes were shined. I was very impressed with how he looked and how I was treated.
I remember driving to Columbus for my first time to take the entrance exam. It was a long battery of psychological profile tests and a reading and comprehension exam. While taking the tests it seemed as though the same questions were being asked over and over. I remember praying and thinking just be honest and don’t worry about trying to answer questions the way you think people want you to answer. After completing the tests, I remember waiting in a classroom for someone to call my name. Sgt. Mike Finamore called some of us out into a hall. He was a very serious looking man, and like the other troopers I met, you could tell he took pride in his appearance. He told us we passed. I couldn’t wait to use the pay phone to call home with the news.
The next thing I remember regarding my experience was meeting Tpr. Bill Jones from the Warren Post. This guy was huge, his uniform was pressed, and his shoes were “spit shined”. Even though he was this ominous figure that commanded respect he was very professional and courteous. Tpr. Jones told me more about the background phase, and said he was going to interview teachers, friends, neighbors, and anyone he could to get a picture of who I was. I had never been in any serious trouble as a kid despite growing up surrounded by it. When you are young you don’t think of how what you do can possibly affect your future. I passed my background and was able to go to the next phase of the applicant process, the medical and physical assessment.
During the physical assessment phase I met my first black trooper. He was tall, lean, and sculpted like some sort of fictional character. Sgt. Ed Farris was his name. This man looked and carried himself in a manner that commanded respect too. Looking at him in that uniform instilled a sense of pride in me. I wanted to do my best not just for myself but for him as well. I was in great physical shape from playing football and running track in college and did very well on my physical assessment. Some who tested with me didn’t do quite as well. To think they made it that far and couldn’t get in because they were out of shape.
It was September of 1987 and the next Academy class didn’t start until the next year so I was offered a job as a cadet dispatcher at the Canfield Post. Sgt. Dan Kolcum was assigned to making sure I was ready to enter the Academy. He made me keep working out and tested me periodically, each time expecting an improvement upon the previous marks set. Sgt. Kolcum was the one who took this “city boy” and showed me how to break down and clean a shotgun. He took a personal interest in me, even inviting me to his home for dinner once. He had a positive impact upon me and encouraged me to work hard and do my best. I had fun and learned a lot about the Patrol while at the Canfield Post.
When I entered
the Academy in March of 1988, I was physically and mentally prepared.
The Academy was the closest thing to what I imagined a military boot camp
would be like. We got up early, trained and worked hard all day and sometimes
even into the night. Everything we did at the Academy had to be done a
certain way. The instructors were tough on us and a lot of cadets quit
before earning the right to put on a grey shirt and be called a trooper.
My first assignment as a trooper was at the Mansfield Post. The only thing I had ever heard about in Mansfield was the Mehock Relays and the Ohio State Reformatory. My Field Training Officer was Tpr. Matt Gurwell. Matt’s expertise in crash investigation led me to excelling in that area and I eventually became a Crash Reconstructionist (the highest level of crash investigation within the Patrol).
Crash investigation was not the only thing I enjoyed. I love to drive and got the opportunity to serve as a driving instructor at the Academy. Teaching was exciting to me and I also got the opportunity to go to training and become a police instructor.
at the Mansfield Post I was asked if I would consider a temporary field
recruitment job. The Patrol was taking a proactive approach toward making
the organization more reflective of the state. The state was divided in
half with the recruitment section handling Columbus. My counter part,
was an Academy classmate Tpr. Cliff Spinner who worked out of the Batavia
Post. We were given the freedom to be creative in our recruitment efforts,
and were provided the resources we needed to get the job done.
I served as a temporary Academy instructor in 1992. While there I had the opportunity to meet and get to know Major Gill Jones. This man was like a father figure/mentor to many of the black troopers on the Patrol and still is to this day even after retirement. Major Jones was very personable, and I still have the utmost respect for him to this day for the manner in which he carried himself and treated others. It was a proud day for black troopers when he was promoted to lieutenant colonel – the second-highest rank in the Patrol. All of the men I have mentioned (black and white) have had a significant impact on my career.
There was one man not mentioned who helped me as a new trooper at the Mansfield Post. Sgt. Rich Parilla took a personal interest in my growth as a trooper. He corrected me when I was wrong and showed me the right way to do things. He also complimented me when I did something good. Sgt. Parilla helped me adjust to my new assignment at the Mansfield Post. He would take me fishing and introduce me to people in the community. It was the personal time he spent with me that helped me adjust to Mansfield. This is the culture of the Highway Patrol. It’s more than just coming to work for eight hours and going home. We are a family of law enforcement officers who care for one another.
My career with the Patrol has allowed me to do more than just traffic enforcement. I have served as a driving instructor, police instructor, field recruitment officer, background investigator, regional crash instructor, and alcohol and drug awareness instructor. There is so much you can do in the Patrol that goes beyond what meets the eye.
When I was promoted to sergeant I worked for Lt. James Holt, who had been a sergeant at the Mansfield Post. Our relationship goes back before I joined the Patrol. Lt. Holt was a trooper at the Warren Post and knew my dad. He also grew up in Youngstown and we shared some similar likes – including eating Sunrise Pizza (best pizza in Warren). Lt. Holt’s expectations were high. He pushed me and I developed quickly under his command. When he was promoted to staff lieutenant I was promoted to lieutenant and took his place.
I have worked for the Highway Patrol for 19 years and have been able to provide comfortably for my wife and seven kids. With seven kids the medical benefits and insurance are really important to me. With everything that’s offered I know without a doubt that my family will be well taken care of should something happen to me. That piece of mind is very important to me.
I am also very proud to say that I have a brother who also works for the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Lt. Marvin Hill. He’s the post commander of the Ashtabula Post, and has worked for the Patrol for 15 years. In 1999 Marvin was selected as the Trooper of the Year for the State of Ohio.
We, as an organization, know and understand the value of being culturally diverse and reflective of the communities that we serve. Black men have enjoyed the opportunity to move as high as lieutenant colonel (second in command) within this organization and women have achieved ranks as high as major. I consider these significant achievements since the first black trooper was commissioned in 1955 and the first female trooper in 1977.