- Feb 01
MPD Begins “Officer of the Month” Award
Chief Maury Richards announced that the Martinsburg Police Department has begun an Officer of the Month award. “We are going to begin to recognize, on a monthly basis, both sworn and non-sworn Department members who distinguish themselves by exemplary work and actions beyond the requirements of normal assignments and which represent the highest standards of policing and community service in the Martinsburg Police Department,” Richards stated.
MPD’s first Officer of the Month is Corporal Justin Harper, recognized for his initiative and leadership role in solving a string of three armed robberies in the Foxcroft Towne Center mall area during Christmas week. In two of the robberies, the offender displayed a gun to threaten his victims. With large crowds of holiday shoppers and families in the mall, the robberies at Bon-Ton, Ruby Tuesday, and Sophia’s were a serious public safety concern, causing fear in the community.
The crimes posed major challenges to law enforcement. At first, police had very little evidence to identify the armed robber but Corporal Harper’s alert observations, immediate action, and imaginative follow up investigation quickly put MPD investigators of the trail of the offender. While already in the area due to heightened police patrol, Corporal Harper arrived within moments of one of the robberies and alertly observed a subject with whom he had prior contact riding away from the area of the crime scene on a bicycle.
The observation triggered the officer’s police instincts. “Something just didn’t seem right,” Harper stated. “An idea clicked and I followed it from there.” Corporal Harper quickly viewed security videos from several nearby stores in which the subject was seen acting suspiciously and that later connected him to the crimes. Through Harper’s initiative a possible suspect was identified and search warrants were conducted that obtained more evidence. Within days, MPD officers arrested Thomas Ferguson, a Martinsburg resident, who was identified in lineups by witnesses as the robber. Ferguson was officially charged with the three crimes.
MPD Deputy Chief George Swartwood praised Harper and the hard work of all the officers that led to the arrest. “This was a great example of good old-fashioned police work using observation, initiative, and instinct. Justin Harper led the way.”
For his part, Corporal Harper is proud yet humble in being named MPD’s first Officer of the Month. “It’s an honor to be recognized but I realize that no one succeeds unless he’s part of a team, and we have a great team here.”
The monthly award will now be a regular event. Criteria to be considered includes outstanding work that: Is varied and challenging; greatly affects people from all walks of life; improves community conditions and quality of life; furthers the ideals and values of the Martinsburg Police Department; achieves significant impact on public safety or crime reduction; resolves problems; brings credit to the Department; demonstrates leadership, initiative, and exceptional professionalism; improves police service to the public; or in other ways advance the goals of MPD. Officers will be recognized within MPD, featured on the Department website, and have their photo on display in the Department lobby.
“We have a great police department” Chief Richards said. “Our officers, dispatchers, and staff do an amazing job serving our community every day. The Officer of the Month award recognizes the most outstanding examples of excellence.”