NEPD of­fi­cer to re­tire after 42 years of ser­vice

Cecil Whig - - & - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

NORTH EAST

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

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.

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