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New Athens Names 21-Year-Old Police Chief

Photo Provided - Sabin Ward, left, shakes hands with New Athens Mayor Joe Petro on Friday morning after being sworn in as the village’s new police chief.

Sabin Ward may have just reached the legal drinking age, but he is much more excited about achieving his lifelong ambition of working in law enforcement as the new police chief of New Athens.

Ward, 21, was sworn in as the head of the department on Friday morning. The village has been without a police officer for nearly four years since the former chief left the department to work for the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office.

Ward said he did some research and believes he is one of the youngest people in the nation to be appointed as a police chief – something Mayor Joe Petro feels is true as well.

Ward, a 2020 graduate of Martins Ferry High School, began his first shift as police chief following the ceremony Friday where Petro swore him into office. He said it turned out to be a pretty hectic day with a lot of in-house work. Though there were no outside calls, he was kept busy with filling out paperwork and organizing and updating equipment.

“Hopefully by next week, I’ll be on the road patrolling and showing the police presence,” he said.

Working in law enforcement has always been a dream of Ward’s, and he said he is happy to be where he is now.

“I’ve been around law enforcement my whole life. My dad was a police officer and my mom was a dispatcher. Police work was always inspiring to me. … I’ve wanted to be a cop since I was a little boy and I just followed through with it. I kept pushing at what I wanted to do, and now I’m here,” he said.

Ward has worked as a full-time officer for the past year and a half with the Bellaire Police Department, where he currently is still employed. His young age prompted him to apply for the part-time position in New Athens, he said.

“Being the age that I am puts a big responsibility on me, and I think I’m ready for that responsibility,” he said.

Ward said he plans to assist the community in any way he can and work to gain residents’ trust.

“I plan to do a lot of community-based stuff to get back with the community for not having a police officer for almost four years and to show them the presence that we’re out here and doing the best we can to help out,” he said. “I want the community to know the police department is someone that they can come to when they need help.”

He said he also plans to hire a few more officers to provide more steady coverage in the village, something it has been lacking the last few years. Ward is currently the only officer employed in the village.

New Athens Village Council held a special meeting at the end of last month and unanimously voted to hire Ward as the police chief. Petro said they had always been actively looking for someone for the position but had never quite found the right fit, until now.

“Sabin seems to be a pretty good individual. He’s young, he’s got all the training necessary and he’s worked under some good people that have shown him the ropes, so to speak. I think he’s going to work out really well for us,” he said.

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