York City's officer of the year says fairness, common sense essential for cops

Liz Evans Scolforo

Shocked at hearing his name announced as the York City Police Department's 2016 officer of the year — and perhaps a bit uncomfortable at his chief praising him in front of a packed room — Downtown Business District Officer Rich Kehler III did what's second nature to him. He made a joke after stepping up to the podium.

"First of all, I'd like to thank whoever's covering my overtime (assignment) tonight," he said, drawing a big laugh from fellow officers.

York City Police Officer Rich Kehler III receives the 2016 "Police Officer of the Year" award during the Departmental Awards Ceremony at York City Hall in York City, Friday, May 12, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Kehler, 39, was chosen  by supervisors and fellow officers as 2016's top officer for his work ethic, willingness to assist other officers and for his dedication to the community, according to York City Police Chief Wes Kahley.

"Officer Richard Kehler has transformed and revitalized the position of downtown business district officer and has continuously worked as 'that extra man on the roster' that everybody needs in ... patrol, neighborhood enforcement and the detective bureau," Kahley said during Friday morning's annual York City Police awards ceremony, held at City Hall.

Kehler is best known in the downtown district as the Segway-riding cop.

"The best part of my job are the interactions I have with people (while) on the Segway," he told The York Dispatch, in part because it's a conversation-starter that puts people at ease.

Segway jacket? When he learned that Harley-Davidson has invited him to choose a leather jacket as thanks for his service, Kehler quietly made another quip in Kahley's ear.

"He wants to know if they have one for a Segway rider," the amused chief reported to the packed room of officers, family members and elected officials.

The chief said Kehler's work ethic is beyond measure and that his friendly, open personality has made "great inroads" in York City's business community. Since Kehler became downtown business district officer, business crimes in the area have dropped by nearly half, according to the chief.

"He represents what true community policing is all about," Kahley said.

York City Police Officer Rich Kehler III, right, is high-fived by York City Mayor C. Kim Bracey as he walks to the podium to receive the 2016 "Police Officer of the Year" award during the Departmental Awards Ceremony at York City Hall in York City, Friday, May 12, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

An example of that community policing is the fact that Kehler's outreach to the business community has given officers access to surveillance footage from more than 400 security cameras owned by businesses and individuals in the downtown area, according to the chief.

Kehler showed  that he can quickly peruse footage from more than 100 of those cameras with just a few taps on his cellphone screen.

Followed dad's footsteps: Kehler thanked his family, his supervisors and fellow officers. He briefly struggled with emotion, brought on as he spoke about his father, who looked on proudly.

"My dad was on the job for a long time," he said.

Later, Kehler told The York Dispatch his father was an officer in Berks County with Myerstown Borough Police and Bern Township Police.

Kehler said his interest in law enforcement was first sparked while watching his father. But it was only after Kehler spent two summers as a seasonal officer in Ocean City, Maryland, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, that he realized he'd found his calling, he said.

Not for everybody: It's a career he recommends to those who have given it "proper thought."

"It's not something to be taken lightly, and it's not for everybody," he said, then added that no officer can succeed without both common sense and an innate sense of fairness.

Raised in Bernville, Kehler graduated from York College in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and was hired by York City Police in 2000. He and his wife, Brynn, have a 12-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.

Brynn Kehler described her husband as a people person who also excels as a father and husband.

"People just love him," she said. "He's just awesome."

York City Police Detective Anthony Fetrow, left, is joined by his son Max Fetrow, 13, center, and his daughter Jillian Fetrow, 14, as well as many other family members while being presented with the "Mayor's Medal of Distinction" during the Departmental Awards Ceremony at York City Hall in York City, Friday, May 12, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Medal of distinction: Also honored Friday was Detective Tony Fetrow, whose extended family showed up to cheer him. He was given the medal of distinction.

Fetrow, 50, was hired in 1988 and started as a patrol officer. From 1997 to 2002, he worked on the Street Crime Reduction Unit, also called the Red Shirts, and showed both leadership and dogged tenacity, according to Kahley.

"He's one of my heroes," the chief said, adding if he was ever the victim of a crime, it's Fetrow he'd want investigating it because "he's not ever going to give up."

As a detective, Fetrow has solved property crimes, assaults and homicides, and he is the department's latent fingerprint expert, the chief said. Fetrow also spent years on the York County Quick Response Team.

Various honors: During his career Fetrow has earned 10 commendations and letters of recognition, 25 chief's commendations for major felony arrests, two achievement awards and several letters of recognition from other police departments for assisting them in solving burglary sprees.

The low-key, well-liked detective said he's grateful to have found "that one thing that makes you want to get up in the morning."

He described policing as his passion.

"I've always wanted to be an example and help (people). ... That's all I've ever tried to do," he said. "I have a couple years left, and I'm not going to slow down."

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley, left, presents the "Director's Award of Achievement" to Police Officer Mike Meeker during the Departmental Awards Ceremony at York City Hall in York City, Friday, May 12, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Achievement award: Officer Mike Meeker received the director's award of achievement for his outstanding work in 2016. Kahley called him a consummate professional.

Last year, he responded to 1,371 calls for service, everything from traffic complaints to homicides, the chief said. Meeker made 37 criminal arrests, issued 122 parking citations, 106 traffic citations and 45 nontraffic citations.

He mentors younger officers, including as a field-training officer, and serves a a crime-scene processor, an accident reconstructionist and a CPR instructor.

"We should be putting you in for a raise, I think," Kahley told Meeker.

'This is my calling': The officer volunteers to stay late, come in early, the chief said, and also volunteered to act as a community liaison to the Springdale neighborhood.

Meeker, 32, was raised in Newton, New Jersey, and was hired by York City Police in 2008. He graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

"This is my calling in life," he told The York Dispatch, and he was inspired to be a cop after watching his own father's work in policing.

"He (gives) 100 percent all the time," said his father, Michael Meeker, and focuses on improving his community.

Meeker, Fetrow and Kehler all received standing ovations at Friday's ceremony.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

York City Police Department Departmental Awards Ceremony at York City Hall in York City, Friday, May 12, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo