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April 28, 2011

Natural Resources Police honor their own

outdoorsblog.jpgIn a packed church basement in Annapolis last night, Natural Resources Police honored officers for their work in law enforcement, rescue, conservation and boating safety.

Cpl. Michael Friend was named Officer of the Year for his tireless efforts to catch drunken boaters on Deep Creek Lake, pursue wildlife poachers and carry out dangerous underwater recovery operations and for his work on behalf of charities such as the annual Polar Bear Plunge that raises money for Special Olympics.

Friend, whose conservation work was recognized in 2008 by the National Wild Turkey Federation, is known for his ability to “improvise, adapt and overcome any situation,” NRP Capt. Bob Davis said.

John Griffin, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, called the police force a “vital link to our healthier future,” noting that NRP is one of just two law enforcement agencies to have statewide jurisdiction.

The secretary praised NRP, which has lost half of its manpower due to budget cuts over the last two decades, for its continued commitment.

“NRP has had to sacrifice more than others,” he said. “We’ve asked you to step up your efforts and you haven’t let us down.”

Griffin, standing in for Gov. Martin O’Malley, said the governor “wants to do what he can to rebuild the force” and urged the officers to ignore talk by state lawmakers to merge NRP with other police forces to create “a mega-police agency.”

“I think that would be a disaster,” Griffin said. “Your origins are here … Your best home is where your roots are.”

Officer First Class Frank Sutton received the Conservation Officer of the Year for his successful pursuit of commercial oyster, striped bass and crab poachers and his investigations of wildlife poachers.

Cpl. Jeffrey Sweitzer was named Boating Safety Officer of the Year for his work on Deep Creek Lake to get drunken and speeding boaters off the water.

A 22-year veteran as a Maryland Park Service ranger and NRP, Cpl. Mark McMillan was selected by the National Wild Turkey Federation as its Officer of the Year. Maryland Park Service

Superintendent Nita Settina presented Sgt. Shawn Garren her agency’s Officer of the Year Award for his work in St. Mary’s County.

Six officers received a Certificate of Merit for service above and beyond the call of duty in a life-threatening situation: OFC Murray Hunt III, OFC Patrick Thompsen, Cpl. Cameron Brown, OFC Rodney Smith Jr., Cpl. Maximillian Schulte and OFC Benjamin Lillard. The first four officers saved boaters and kayakers in distress while the latter two rescued waterfowl hunters trapped in a brutal winter storm on Hart-Miller Island.

A Superintendent’s Commendation was awarded to Sgt. Aaron Parker, Cpl. Melissa Scarborough and OFC Devin Corcoran for a midnight rescue of two boaters clinging to a cooler after their boat capsized in the Chesapeake Bay. OFC David Rice received a Commendation for solving a break-in at a state facility.

Lt. Greg Bartles, Cpl. John Atkins Jr. and two civilians—Philip Jarusek and Roger Youngerman—received Certificates of Appreciation.

NRP also celebrated the promotions of Robert Kersey Jr. to lieutenant and Aaaron Parker and Robert Ford to sergeant.

Posted by Candus Thomson at 12:00 PM |
About Candus Thomson
In a world of paper vs. plastic and candy mint vs. breath mint, my early memories involved a debate about the merits of freshwater vs. saltwater.

On the one hand, a great uncle’s fishing cabin on the Susquehanna River beckoned, but so did family gatherings on the Jersey Shore.

The correct answer, thankfully, was, “both.”

As The Sun’s outdoors writer for more than a decade, I’ve fished across Maryland in one day, hiked the width of the state in one hour, camped overnight in the median of I-95 to experience the wildlife between the fast lanes and chased mountain bikers in a 24-hour marathon race.

Those are some of the highlights. I’ve also fallen in a raging Gunpowder River during a trout survey (photo available upon request), had a shark spill its guts on my clothes and been stuck in a sub-freezing Vermont wilderness with men armed with flintlocks and hatchets, shuffling along on ancient wooden snowshoes.

And, in my travels I’ve met lots of you, who share a love of the outdoors and the good times and mishaps that go along with it.

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