When a fatal shooting occurred in the parking lot of a hotel on Park East Drive April 20, Beachwood police officer Jamey S. Appell addressed the media after a search of a nearby office building.
That day, erroneous information circulated via social media that there was an active shooter on Chagrin Boulevard and Jewish day schools went into soft lockdown.
Police Chief Kelly J. Stillman said the shooter was not in the area, and Appell addressed the media in his newest of many roles at the Beachwood Police Department – as public information officer. He held interviews on camera explaining the limited information police had at the time regarding the shooting at Embassy Suites.
Appell’s other roles include community relations, training coordinator, security detail coordinator, fire investigator, chaplain liaison, master criminal investigator and master evidence technician.
Appell, 51, started as a dispatcher with the Beachwood Police Department in 1996, having graduated from the Cleveland Heights Police Academy, where he later worked as an instructor for 10 years prior to its closure.
Born in Cleveland, Appell grew up in University Heights and attended Temple Emanu El, which was then on South Green Road in University Heights. He remembers piling into the back seat of a station wagon with wood seats in a religious school carpool with about 10 other children.
“I look back now as a policeman,” he said. “Oh my gosh, that was so dangerous.”
Appell’s father, Melvin Appell, was an auxiliary police officer with the city of University Heights.
“He would leave a scanner at home,” Appell said. “I would listen to the radio all the time … just kind of jumping through that radio. I wanted to be out there and be a policeman.”
A graduate of Cleveland Heights High School, Appell’s first job in law enforcement was at the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department from 1993 to 1996. He then started work as a dispatcher in Beachwood, becoming an officer in 1999.
Appell said he fell into the role of public information officer after he suggested to Stillman that a public information officer might be needed.
“He goes, ‘OK, you’re it,’” Appell said. “I’ll do pretty much whatever he asked. He’s a good guy.”
Appell said getting accurate information to the public quickly the day of the Embassy Suites shooting was challenging because all available officers were at the call, including himself.
“We thought we possibly had a suspect in a building,” he said. “So, that took some time to clear that building.”
The Beachwood Police Department now has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Appell said, and he will work to get accurate information out within 10 minutes of an initial call.
”We know that getting information out quickly is important, especially because if we don’t, somebody else is going to be giving out false information, which actually occurred during that incident,” he said.
Appell said his status as a Jewish officer has led to some “joking around” with other officers.
“I’ve never felt like… somebody targeted me because I was Jewish,” he said, adding that being a Jewish officer in Beachwood has relaxed members of the public.
He also recalled one man asking him, “What’s it like working with all these Jews?” Appell said he let the man talk for a bit, then responded, “It’s really not a bad city to work in. People are really nice and appreciative.”
After the man made another remark, Appell said, “Being Jewish, it’s really not such a bad place to work.”
With that, the man’s “jaw hit the ground,” Appell said. “Maybe that’ll make him think twice about what he says, because you never know who you’re talking to.”
Appell said with Beachwood’s significant number of Jewish institutions, any one of them could be a target of antisemitic violence.
“I’ve always had the mindset that it’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when,” he said. “My understanding was a few years ago we had the largest Jewish population per capita in the world.”
Beachwood is 89.5% Jewish, according to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s 2011 population study, its most recent study.
Appell said antisemitic flyers have been placed on homes and mailboxes, adding Beachwood police “are very responsive to it and are present in Jewish neighborhoods and institutions.
“I’m sure that if somebody was planning on something here, they’d have to really think twice about it,” Appell said.
He said his proudest moment in policing was saving a woman with a defibrillator 20 years ago.
“It wasn’t about like Black or white,” he said, adding that the woman was Black. “It was about this policeman who saved this female whose heart stopped beating.”
Making a difference means something to Appell.
“I’ve got probably two-and-a-half ... binders full of letters that people have written me – people I’ve arrested, people I’ve helped,” he said. “When I get down on the job, I open those up and I read through them. And it reminds me of why I do what I do.”