NEPD officer to retire after 42 years of service
— When Russ Merritt leaves his office Sunday after more than two decades with the North East Police Department, he has plans to do exactly nothing.
After 42 years in law enforcement, the last 21 with NEPD, Merritt is retiring.
“I’m not doing anything until spring,” he said Thursday.
Though he’s had job offers from local businesses and suggestions that he make the move to security details, Merritt, 68, isn’t interested.
“Why would I want to do that?” he said.
He has no specific reason for closing the book on his career.
“It’s just time,” he said. “Time to quit.”
Merritt got out of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1969. He had just gotten back from Vietnam and tried working at various companies for a few years. Then, the Baltimore City Police Department went on strike in 1974 and the agency became desperate for manpower as its uniformed officers walked picket lines.
“I applied on a Monday
and was hired on Friday. It was as quick as that,” he said. “They did the background checks while we were in the academy.”
While still in training, his work on a car chase and arrest earned him a letter of commendation.
“It was a nice clean chase,” he recalled.
Merritt was a Baltimore City officer for 21 years, working the eastern district.
“Back then we didn’t have cellphones or even pagers. We had a call box with keys,” he said.
He remembers being on foot patrol once and coming face-to-face with a 12-gauge shotgun.
“He fired a shot ... BOOM! ... and said, ‘Come and get me,’” he said.
Like many law enforcement officers, Merritt retired from a large department and made the lateral move to a smaller force.
“When they swore me in, they asked me how long I’d be here. I thought maybe five or 10 years,” he said.
However, he enjoyed the community police work as well as all his co-workers, including Chief Darrell Hamilton and town officials and staff.
“Darrell has been a great person to work with, and the support we get from the mayor and everyone is great,” Merritt said.
Police work is very different in North East compared to Baltimore City, he said.
“In Baltimore, you can’t get personal with people. Here if you call me, I have the time,” he said. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Thank you.’ They were heading down the wrong trail and I turned them around.”
Hamilton got word a year ago that Merritt was retiring. That gave him plenty of time to fill the position. Marco Caracas will take Merritt’s position after also making the move from Baltimore City to North East. In the meantime, Merritt has been helping the department make the transition.
“He has taken it upon himself to make sure the training he has is passed on to them,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said Merritt will be missed.
“He’s a good-hearted person who can lift my spirits up when I’m in the doldrums,” the chief said.
Remembering when he swore Merritt into the town force, Hamilton said, “we were blessed to be able to get Russ.”
Merritt’s last weekend on duty won’t be laid back though since the Cecil County Christmas Parade is Saturday in North East.
“There are signs to put out Friday,” he said, noting that he would spend Thursday walking the length of Main Street to hand deliver letters to each business reminding them of the parade and the impending street closures.
Sunday will then be spent on cleanup, Merritt said. “I’ll be so tired,” he said. While he will miss the work relationships and being greeted by people who know him by name as he walks down Main Street, Merritt said he lives locally and isn’t leaving Cecil County. He looks forward to lazy days with his wife, Kathy, and being able to visit his daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchild.
“Kathy will keep him busy,” Hamilton predicted.
Russ Merritt, 68, is retiring after 21 years with the North East Police Department. Merritt previously served 21 years with the Baltimore City Police. His last day of work is Sunday.