Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Police detective retires; school resource officer wins Officer of the Year

Detective Clair Martin, left, receives a framed gift that includes
his badge from Elizabethtown Police Chief Jack Mentzer.
Last Thursday night Borough Council meeting turned into a lovefest for the Elizabethtown Police Department -- and rightly so.

Two officers were honored for their work with the department. Detective Clair Martin was recognized for 26 years of service to the community upon retiring from the department on Jan. 3. And Officer Rick Farnsler received the Police Officer of the Year Award, an honor bestowed on him by his fellow officers in the department.

Over the years, Martin received a litany of letters of commendation, distinguished unit citations and other awards and recognition for his service. But it was his role as dressing up as McGruff the Crime Dog that got laughs last week.

"He looked great in that outfit," Police Chief Jack Mentzer said.

And while he investigated every degree of crime during his career in Elizabethtown, Martin's legacy will be his specializing in investigating crimes that involved children and juveniles. Mentzer said that Martin is "one of the best investigators" in the area when it comes to working those kinds of cases.

"God has really blessed me with a heart for serving the kids," Martin said.

In addition, Martin was a member of the Lancaster County Special Emergency Response Team (SERT), which responds to incidents such as people barricaded in a house with weapons. One such incident occurred two weeks before Martin retired, and Mentzer said many officers that close to retirement would have begged off. Martin "demanded to be part of the entry team."

"It just goes to show the dedication he has to the community, to the department and to his fellow officers," Mentzer said.

Officer Rick Farnsler, left, receives the Officer
of the Year Award from Mayor Chuck Mummert.
Officer Farnsler was selected as the Officer of the Year for 2014 through a vote of his fellow police officers and the staff at the police department. He joined the department in September 1991 and was assigned as the School Resource Officer at the Elizabethtown Area High School in August 2007. During his years of service, Farnsler also has accumulated a long list of letters of commendation, distinguished unit citations and other recognition for his police work. He was also named Officer of the Year in 2008.

Mentzer said his work as the SRO at the high school has turned it a model program. Farnsler is assigned to the high school full time during the school year and works with students, teachers and the administration to address issues before they become crimes and to investigate and respond to incidents as needed.

Mentzer said having Farnsler assigned at the school has helped police develop better relationships with young people and has helped provide useful information at times. He said Farnsler is the right person for the job with the disposition and attitude to work with everyone.

"He gained the trust of the kids, which is not easy to do," said Councilman Tom Shaud.

Mentzer highlighted two initiatives that Farnsler has implemented. One is Text-a-Tip that allows students to text anonymous tips to police. Mentzer said he was skeptical of the idea at first, but it has "turned into a phenomenal success." Rather than students taking advantage of the program, they text real information, including several times when someone thought a fellow student was going to hurt himself or herself or even commit suicide. It has allowed Farnsler and school officials to intervene and possibly save lives.

The other initiative is Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) training that Farnsler teaches to senior girls as many of them prepare to go to college. The class teaches them to be aware of their surroundings and how to protect themselves.

"It is a privilege and a pleasure to have Rick in the department," Mentzer said.

Yes, it is a privilege and an honor to have consummate professionals like Farnsler and Martin in the Elizabethtown Police Department. I think I can speak for the rest of my fellow councilmen that we thank for them for their outstanding service.

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