Of­fi­cer re­turns af­ter year-long de­ploy­ment

Sunday Star - - LOCAL - By BROOKE SCHULTZ Stu­dent In­tern

— Of­fi­cer Reynolds Peele of the Chestertown Po­lice De­part­ment had a week’s no­tice of his de­ploy­ment.

“You’re al­ways ready to go,” he said in an in­ter­view Mon­day, June 26, at the po­lice sta­tion. “I’m kind of sea­soned, so the men­tal part is just get ready, get set, go.”

That was about a year ago now. In June 2016, Peele was de­ployed by the U.S. Army Re­serve as a staff sergeant in sup­port of Op­er­a­tion En­dur­ing Free­dom, sta­tioned at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

“I was with a great unit — 314th out of Cal­i­for­nia,” he said.

Sim­i­lar to the short no­tice Peele re­ceived be­fore his de­ploy­ment, there was un­cer­tainty as to when he would be back. He spec­u­lated to Po­lice Chief Adrian Baker that it could be May.

He ar­rived back in Chestertown on May 31, which Baker joked was “cut­ting it a lit­tle bit close.”

“I was sit­ting in the lunch­room, and he walked in and there he was,” Baker said. “It was the best day of my ca­reer. For him to re­turn healthy and ready to go — it’s emo­tional for me. You don’t know what he’s go­ing through — and he makes light of it, and he has a great per­son­al­ity — but it was quite a sac­ri­fice, I’m sure.”

Peele, 41, has been in the Army Re­serve since 2007. Prior, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps and Na­tional Guard. He de­scribes him­self as a “mil­i­tary man. That’s it.”

Peele’s fa­ther is a Marine — a “full bird colonel” — and Peele fol­lowed af­ter him in the Marines in 1995.

“The Marine Corps, I credit that for in­still­ing the honor and the courage and the com­mit­ment that kind of rule my life to­day,” he said. “It was a great thing for me. I’m glad that I had the abil­ity to do it.”

Peele stayed in the Marine Corps un­til 2004.

“I wanted to go home, ex­pe­ri­ence a lit­tle life,” he said. “I kind of felt like I was miss­ing some­thing from when I was away from home.”

He equates those years in the Marines with col­lege life.

“As a pri­vate, you’re broke just like col­lege stu­dents. You’re all broke to­gether, though,” he said.

Af­ter some time away from the Marines, he de­cided to join the Na­tional Guard.

“It seemed like I couldn’t get with­out that ca­ma­raderie of the mil­i­tary,” he said. “It was a cer­tain bond that I missed and that the po­lice de­part­ment gives to me now. I just need that in my life.”

At the Guard, he ser ved as a sup­ply tech­ni­cian. He de­scribed it as be­ing closed in a room where peo­ple could come and re­trieve items while he would or­der sup­plies.

“There’s a lit­tle bit more to me than sit­ting in an of­fice like that,” he said. “The peo­ple were great, but I just needed a lit­tle bit more ac­tiv­ity in my life.”

For that rea­son, he de­cided to join the Re­serve. The Re­serve of­fered him a chance to be a drill sergeant and an of­fi­cer of the mil­i­tary po­lice.

“Just to be a part of the ca­ma­raderie of the peo­ple who give them­selves for some­thing more than them­selves — that’s the won­der­ful, won­der­ful thing,” he said. “You’re meet­ing young kids with that men­tal­ity, and be­ing a men­tor and guid­ing them . ... It’s an honor to be a part of some­thing like that.”

The dilemma for him, how­ever, be­came how to ap­ply what he did in the mil­i­tary to when he was home in the United States.

“I like be­ing around peo­ple,” he said. “I want to do my best at what I was sworn to do — do the things I do in the mil­i­tary with the peo­ple out here. As far as be­ing a pro­tec­tor, I have this whole fan­tasy as­pect of life. The knight in shin­ing ar­mor type thing — I be­lieve in that. I be­lieve in tr ying to make the world a bet­ter place still.”

That, Peele said, put him on the road to law en­force­ment.

Baker said hir­ing some­one with mil­i­tar y ex­pe­ri­ence is a nat­u­ral step.

“If I have the op­por­tu­nity or op­tion to hire some­body with mil­i­tar y ex­pe­ri­ence, I con­sider that a great value,” he said. “In my opinion, from the out­side look­ing in, to some de­gree there are sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween mil­i­tar y ser­vice and work­ing at a po­lice de­part­ment. It would cer­tainly be fair to call the po­lice de­part­ment a quasimil­i­tary op­er­a­tion. We have a rank struc­ture just like the mil­i­tary; I think we have a sim­i­lar honor code just like the mil­i­tary, and in the end, our ba­sic goal is the same and that is: that we serve.”

Baker at­tended Peele’s grad­u­a­tion from the Po­lice Academy at Anne Arun­del Com­mu­nity Col­lege in July 2014, where they spoke highly of Peele. He of­fi­cially joined the force in Oc­to­ber 2015.

“It was hon­estly from the grace of God that I met up with the chief,” Peele said. “I was lucky and for­tu­nate . ... I just wanted to ex­press my grat­i­tude by do­ing a great job, keep­ing a good at­ti­tude ever yday.”

Peele’s ab­sence did cause a bit of a strain for a de­part­ment that, at full, com­prises 14 of­fi­cers.

“It does im­pact a small de­part­ment like this,” Baker said. “We pretty much com­pen­sate by over­time, by the other of­fi­cers work­ing more hours.”

An added com­pli­ca­tion, Baker said, is a con­cern for vi­o­lence against po­lice of­fi­cers.

“We no longer will have a shift — if we can ever help it — where there’s only one of­fi­cer work­ing. We have at least two of­fi­cers work­ing. That again is a de­mand on man­power. But we want to make sure our of­fi­cers are safe,” Baker said.

Even with the pos­si­bil­ity of Peele’s de­ploy­ment, Baker said the agency ben­e­fits from the ex­pe­ri­ence in train­ing and the dis­ci­pline the mil­i­tary pro­vides.

Peele said the po­lice de­part­ment was un­der­stand­ing.

“It felt like leav­ing home,” he said. “I knew home was go­ing to be in­tact when I came back; it helped me con­cen­trate on the mis­sion.”

Upon his re­turn, Peele un­der­went a brief pe­riod of work­ing with an­other of­fi­cer as a way to make sure he was back on track and com­fort­able. June 26 was his first day “cut loose,” ac­cord­ing to Baker.

“We are very proud of our of­fi­cer rep­re­sent­ing us overseas and in armed ser­vices,” Baker said. “I’m just very proud of him. He’s very sin­cere; doesn’t use his words lightly when he says honor and pride.”

PHOTO BY BROOKE SCHULTZ

Chief Adrian Baker, left, and Of­fi­cer Reynolds Peele, right, of the Chestertown Po­lice De­part­ment talk about Peele’s ser­vice in an in­ter­view on June 26.

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