LIMA — A Lima Police Department detective whose tireless efforts were credited as key to obtaining the first-ever conviction in Allen County of an individual for participating in a criminal gang was honored Wednesday as Ohio’s Outstanding Peace Officer for 2020 by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
Detective Steve Stechschulte Jr. was the recipient of the award given annually to a law enforcement officer who has gone above and beyond for his community in the performance of their duties.
Stechschulte was nominated for the award by Assistant Allen County Prosecutor Tony Miller for his “skill as a law enforcement officer, his mastery of suspect interviews, his knowledge of the criminal element in Allen County and because of how widely respected he is by his fellow law enforcement officers in Allen County and across the state.”
Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Juergen Waldick said Stechschulte was selected for the award after a screening committee reviewed all nominations made by prosecutors statewide.
“Steve is certainly deserving of this honor for all the work he does for the city” of Lima, Waldick said. He is the first Allen County law enforcement officer to win the award.
The annual award is traditionally presented at a gala banquet in Columbus, but the coronavirus pandemic forced that event to be canceled. The award was presented instead in the lobby of the Third District Court of Appeals building on Main Street.
Seldom at a loss for words, Stechschulte struggled to express his gratitude.
“I appreciate this award. It’s a great honor, and I appreciate the prosecutor’s office. They know I love working with them,” the detective said.
Stechschulte’s work resulted last year in the first-ever successful prosecution of an individual for participation in a criminal gang in Allen County.
He was certified as an expert in criminal gang activity in Lima and was a key state witness during the trial of Eric Wilson in October of last year. From the witness stand, the detective painted for jurors a thorough picture of criminal gang activity in Lima. Stechschulte talked at length about gang affiliations that include the Northside, Eastside, Manni World and other “hybrid” gangs.
Based in large part the detective’s testimony, Wilson was convicted and was sentenced to 62 years in prison.
“The gang conviction was huge,” Stechschulte said. “It wasn’t just me. It was the result of a collaborative effort between the LPD, the Allen County Sheriffs Office and the prosecutor’s office. It was a lot of hard work, but the people I work with are incredible. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them.”
In a prepared statement, Miller said he was “proud to nominate Detective Stechschulte for this award and can think of no one who is more deserving. His work ethic is tireless and he does the job the way he does because he cares about people.”
Stechschulte has served as a peace officer in the city of Lima for nearly 30 years, including the last 15 as a detective.