When Detective Sergeant Tabitha Angello was considering her future following an honorable discharge from the Air National Guard, she wanted a challenge — and variety.
“I wanted a position that was respected,” she says. “I wanted life experiences that most people avoid. I always had an interest in being a police officer, and I wanted a job where no two days were alike — and there’s no better environment than law enforcement for people who hate monotony. Your routine can change on a dime. Going into law enforcement was the greatest decision I could have made.”
That decision led to her current position at the Lorain Police Department, where in November, she became the first female sergeant in the history of the department. As a 12-year veteran, she was more than prepared to step into the milestone role, punctuating a long journey of education and training that started at Lorain County Community College.
“LCCC’s Police Academy was the starting point of my law enforcement career,” says the lifelong resident of Lorain. “The education you get through the LCCC academy gives you an open door to excel in any direction you choose. And you learn from instructors such as officers and prosecutors that you will be working closely with.”
Today she is using her degrees and experience to advance her law enforcement career and, more important, to make a difference in people’s lives.
Called to serve
Angello served with the 179th Airlift Wing Air National Guard in Mansfield for nearly 10 years, enlisting right out of high school. When she was honorably discharged in 2004, she thought about a future in law enforcement.
“I wanted my life to make a difference,” she says. “I wanted a job that could be keeping criminals off the street, keeping watch on a neighborhood, helping someone who is down and out by arranging for a shelter or just unlocking someone’s car door. I wanted to look back and know that other people were better off because of me.”
Angello had attended LCCC while in the Air National Guard and returned to earn her associate degree in police science. She graduated in 2003 and the following year enrolled in the college’s Police Training Academy.
The police academy is a series of rigorous educational and physical modules that prepare potential law enforcement officers for handling the demands of the position. The highly disciplined environment is intended to get aspiring officers into shape as law enforcement officers, both mentally and physically.
Angello says the academy prepares students for the rigors of the job.
“The real world is not like the controlled environment of the police academy — people don’t casually submit to arrest or tell the truth about crimes they have committed — but LCCC prepared me for what I would encounter,” she says.
After being certified by the Ohio Peace Office Training Commission (OPOTC), Angello pursued a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at David Meyers University in Cleveland while working as a school safety officer at Johnnie Wilson Middle School in Lorain and a part-time park ranger with the Lorain County Metro Parks. Her combination of experience and education made her a star candidate when she tested for and accepted a patrol officer position at the Lorain Police Department in 2006.
“She had been certified through the state, and she had a bachelor’s degree,” says Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera. “She had done everything to prepare herself for her chosen field, which impressed us.”
As a patrol officer, Angello continued to pursue advanced education and training to give herself a competitive advantage.
“The biggest challenge used to be simply being selected, because the competition was incredibly fierce,” she says. “It wasn’t uncommon to see hundreds of applicants for a handful of openings.”
In 2009, while working full time, she earned her master of science degree in criminal justice from Tiffin University.
She spent more than six years on patrol, working mostly the night shift — “the shift that often handles the most intense and dangerous calls,” Rivera says. “It’s a tough job, and she always did a great job. She has a good temperament, good communication skills and a lot of empathy and respect for the people we deal with. She really represents us well.”
In 2013, Angello was reassigned to Lorain’s Criminal Investigation Unit.
“The position requires an extraordinary amount of commitment,” she says. “Today’s cases are intense, complex and technology driven. In this position, you gain knowledge of interviewing and interrogating techniques, photography, crime scene processing and forensics.”
Building on that knowledge, she completed more than 300 hours of training to earn certification in 2015 as a master criminal investigator; two years later, she became a state-certified homicide investigator. And as she gained respect within the department and throughout the community, she became a natural choice for promotion to sergeant.
“Tabitha is an excellent, positive example of what you can do when you get your education, attend the academy and then devote your time to working in the field,” Rivera says. “She is a real asset, and I look for great things from her in years to come.”
Setting an example
Rivera says Angello’s achievement as the department’s first female sergeant is an important milestone for the city.
“She’s a great role model and has demonstrated that she’s very much capable of doing this job and excelling,” he says. “To other young females, it shows that you’re more than capable of doing the job, just like anybody else can.”
One of those she is setting an example for is her daughter, Brianna Cirilo, 17. And when Angello was sworn in as sergeant on Nov. 5, 2018, Brianna pinned on her mother’s new badge.
“My mom is very passionate about her job, and she’s more than prepared for her new role as sergeant,” Brianna says. “It’s really empowering to see her in this position.”
Angello says that from day one, her colleagues have been supportive, and working in a male-dominated field has built her character.
“I’ve learned to be strong both inside and out,” she says. “Develop thick skin, but don’t be ignorant. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind; however, use your voice wisely. Prepare yourself, because you will be challenged every day — mentally, physically and emotionally.”
LCCC prepares future law enforcement
Traditionally, when Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera hired new police officers, he’d send cadets to police training academies outside Lorain County. So he and other members of the Lorain County Chiefs Law Enforcement Association met with LCCC’s leadership to discuss the need for a police academy in Lorain County. The college launched its Police Training Academy in 2002.
“We were envisioning it for the benefit of police departments, that we’d have a local academy and not have to send our officers all over the state,” Rivera says.
But the value has expanded beyond that.
Now, he says, “The majority of people attending the academy are not already hired as police officers; they’re students who hope to become police officers. I think it’s more valuable now because people have a local place where they can prepare for a career in law enforcement, giving us a pool of good recruits.”
Although Rivera occasionally sends new hires to the academy to be trained in police work, more candidates have already completed the LCCC program when they apply to join the department. He says he knows, with their training, those graduates will hit the ground running.
As a result, local agencies have become more active in recruiting, and the relationship between the academy and the Lorain County Chiefs Association helps ensure a high rate of students finding employment in Lorain County following graduation.