Speech by Ed Tomba, Event #5: AHA! Cleveland at Mall B

Ed Tomba, Deputy Chief of Cleveland Police was the featured speaker at our fifth event on August 8, 2014 as part of AHA! Cleveland Festival of Lights on Mall B downtown. 1,800 listeners heard his speech.

Ed Tomba, Deputy Chief of Cleveland Police was the featured speaker at our fifth event on August 8, 2014 as part of AHA! Cleveland Festival of Lights on Mall B downtown. 1,800 listeners heard his speech.

Thank you and Good evening. I would like to thank Tammy for her kind introduction, and acknowledge her, and her dedicated staff who daily Inspire, Encourage and Lead Me, and many others on our journeys to Wellness, Mindfulness, AND a great sense of  Well-being. ALL of your dedicated work is appreciated!!!  I… along with others, Thank You!!

I am Ed Tomba, and am the Deputy Chief of Police for the City of Cleveland. I have been a police officer  for 29 years, and am a lifelong resident of our Great City. As I stand here tonight, I believe ALL of us are on our own personal  journey thru life…and that journey is filled with moments and events that shape who we are, how we interact with each other, and how we ultimately choose to live our life. On this wonderful evening, and here in the heart of our City, I would like to share with you a few events that have taken place on my personal  journey, and have shaped my life and who I am today.

Ed Tomba, Deputy Chief of Cleveland Police, at  Believe in CLE   Event #4 on June 27, 2014. 

Ed Tomba, Deputy Chief of Cleveland Police, at Believe in CLE  Event #4 on June 27, 2014. 

I started my career with the Cleveland Police in 1985, and was ready to make a difference in the lives of the citizens of Cleveland. What I soon realized as a patrol officer, was that the people I encountered daily had numerous challenges related to poverty, some of their basic needs were not being met, and many of the families had experienced loss through violence.  In the meantime, Cleveland was in transition, and struggling to reclaim its identity as one of the best cities in America, however it seemed that we were fighting an uphill battle with drugs, gangs and crime in our city.   

It was during these early years that I learned the true meaning of being a public servant. My faith sustained me, my family and friends supported me, and daily exercise gave me the strength I need to continue working and serving.

During my 29 year career with the Division of Police, I experienced several life changing moments. One very challenging moment came in 1988. As my partner and I were dispatched to a home where a domestic dispute was taking place on a second floor, we arrived to find a very intoxicated male threatening his wife with a knife, while she held their child in her arms. As we were attempting to subdue the male, I was stabbed several times and bleeding he grabbed me, punched me, and we both fell thru a glass door, down a flight of stairs, causing injury to my head, neck and arms. My partner and the other officers who had arrived on the scene, were able to subdue the male, and the woman and her daughter were not harmed. The officers who came to my aid and drove me to the hospital were of great support to me during my recovery and return to duty. Thankfully, the suspect, who had a prior history of domestic abuse, was later incarcerated. From that encounter that night, came a realization that I had a duty to serve and protect, and that the Division of Police would be there for me during those challenging times I would face during my career.

Another life changing event occurred in April of 2003, when a young girl disappeared after completing her shift at a fast food restaurant on Cleveland’s westside. A year later, a second young girl from the same area, did not return home from school. The names of these two young girls are Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus. At the time the girls went missing in 2003, I was serving as the Commander of the Bureau of Special Operations and was working closely with the officers assigned to the First District, along with the FBI. I witnessed firsthand, the heartache and frustration of the families of those missing girls. I also saw the dedicated men and women of law enforcement who worked tirelessly to find these young girls. Year after year went by…every lead or tip, no matter how insignificant, was followed, while the families and close knit community participated in rallies, and WE discussed new strategies. Like our great city, we would not give UP!!!

And then it happened, the most amazing and unforgettable moment of my career. A moment that points to a shining example of Resilience, Strength, Faith and the Will to Survive.

The date is May 6, 2013, just before 5 p.m, and while in my office across the street, I receive a phone call from our Communication’s Section, and am told that Amanda Berry has been found alive, and is at a house on Seymour Avenue. I immediately leave the office, and drive the short distance to Seymour, and as I approach the street, I see numerous police officers gathered around, as well as total chaos and pandemonium among the residents of the street. At the same time, I see Nancy DeJesus, Gina’s Mom, running towards me having just arrived, and asking me, “IS it True, Is it True?” I then see FBI agent Andy Burke, who with tears in his eyes, and hardly able to speak, point to an ambulance that has just left the house, and is heading to MetroHealth Hospital. I drive Gina’s Mom, Nancy, to the hospital, we run into the E.R., and there stands Gina…Nancy’s legs buckle and she falls into her daughter’s arms. There is a moment of complete silence, followed by hugging and tears of joy. This moment is incomprehensible…and then I look to my left, and there is Amanda Berry sitting up on a gurney with a huge smile on her face, and holding a young girl eating a popsicle, and right next to them is Michelle Knight. I am again stunned to hear Amanda say that the young girl is her daughter…she was born while the girls were held captive, and she did not exist to the outside world until that day…but was now free to begin her new life with her Mother and family. Their smiles lit up the ROOM, THEY WERE FREE AT LAST, after 11 long years of captivity.

THE City was Celebrating, and the world was watching. The next two weeks were a whirlwind of national and international media coverage of this story. The outpouring of love and support for these girls is nothing like I have ever seen. The heart of our CITY was beating stronger than ever, and we, as a community, realized the true strength of the human spirit, as well as a family’s and community’s fight to never give up hope.

About 10 months prior to that special day of May 6, 2013, I walked into my first YOGA Class at the recommendation of my daughter, Natalie, and had been enjoying practicing 2-3 times a week. During the days and weeks following the escape of the girls, those practices sustained me and allowed me to serve those who needed my service…from the police officers who worked these cases for all those 11 years, to the ones who went into that house and rescued the girls, to the Seymour Ave. community and surrounding neighborhood. It was during this time that I realized the importance of the Mind, Body and Spiritual connection that the practice of YOGA provided me. My practices became more focused, and I discovered that the power of YOGA was a healing force on my journey to well-being.

As we gather this evening on this beautiful green space with the lake and City skyline as a backdrop, we have a front row seat to the ongoing progress and revitalization of our City. Tonight, the power of the practice, will inspire you, the Lights will show the way to wellness, and All of us together, will once again energize our City!

I am an advocate for our City, and enjoy living, working, and raising my family here. I am A  BELIEVER in CLEVELAND! I am also a believer in the power of YOGA to transform each individual who practices, into the person that they desire to be, physical, emotionally, and spiritually.

The City is at a tipping point for the positive, and I believe it began that evening in May of last year, when Amanda Berry make that fateful 911 call, and was finally free along with her daughter, and Gina and Michelle…AND it has continued…the Believe in Cle movement is playing a pivotal role in the positive direction that we are headed in as a City and REGION.

All of you here this evening, and those who participated in previous Believe events are a part of that movement. I would invite you to continue to participate in the Believe in CLE events. The momentum that this movement has, is due in large part to the passion and leadership of Tammy Lyons and her staff. There is no doubt that this movement will grow and provide many AHA moments for you as you move through your life’s Journey!

Thank You, and enjoy your practice and the rest of the evening’s FESTIVITIES!!!