Ramey native lieutenant on Md. police force|
Saturday, July 21, 2012
By Josh Woods Staff Writer
HAGERSTOWN, MD - On July 11, former Ramey resident Rebecca Fetchu became only the second woman in Hagerstown Police Department history to earn the rank of lieutenant. The rank is the latest achievement for Fetchu who fondly remembers wanting to be a police officer from the time she was 16 or 17 years old.
"I can't say that there was any one thing that drew me to this career," said Fetchu. "I have always felt that this has been my calling. Aside from a brief time in college when I thought I might want to go to law school, I haven't wavered from wanting to be a part of law enforcement."
Her commitment has paid off.
Born at Philipsburg Hospital 34 years ago to Dave and Diane Williams, Fetchu was raised in Ramey with her brothers Lowell and Doug. She attended Moshannon Valley Junior/Senior High School where she graduated in 1996 with plans to major in criminology/pre-law at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Prior to earning a bachelor's degree in 2000, Fetchu added a minor in political science and participated in a summer internship program with Clearfield County Sheriff's Office.
Then, a Hagerstown recruiter cemented her career plan.
"During my senior year at IUP, an officer from the Hagerstown Police Department came to do some recruiting for Police Corps," said Fetchu. "They were offering a scholarship to college graduates who would remain with the police department for four years upon completion of their police academy.
"I saw it as a professional and financial opportunity and signed on. I spent six months living in Linthicum, Md. (near Baltimore) at the academy before moving to Hagerstown."
Fetchu completed the six-month live-in boot camp style academy at the now defunct Police Corps. She started her law enforcement career at Hagerstown Police Department in November of 2000. When Fetchu joined Hagerstown PD in 2000, Margaret Kline was its first female lieutenant. She was encouraged by Kline, and saw that climbing the department ladder was possible. With Kline's support, Fetchu began to learn the job of patrol officer and how to do it to the best of her ability.
"I, of course worry about her, but I trust her instincts and training," said her husband, James Fetchu. "While we were dating, Becky arranged for me to accompany her on a "ride along" during part of her shift as a patrol officer.
"In just a few short hours I watched as she handled numerous calls ranging from domestic disputes, to illegal drugs, to a bar fight. It left little doubt in my mind she could handle any situation."
After she spent three years learning the ropes as a patrol officer, Fetchu transferred to the Narcotics Task Force, which, she said, is a unit housed within the Drug Enforcement Administration Office. It works closely with both local and federal drug agents.
Once she was transferred to the department's narcotics unit, Fetchu began to seriously consider taking a promotional exam, she said. "I felt like I had both the patrol and specialized unit experience to be effective as a supervisor," she said. "Right now I am concentrating on my new responsibilities, and I have to learn what needs done and the best way to go about it."
The promotional process is a competitive one, Fetchu said. It begins with a 100-question test based on a college level book entitled "Effective Police Supervision," and is based on one's understanding of the police department's rules and regulations and Maryland law, she said.
The process continues with an essay response to two hypothetical community relations questions. The third phase, she said, is an oral interview with members of outside police agencies who score you on your responses to hypothetical problems or issues that arise in the community or within the police department.
Lastly, superiors rank the candidates in terms of readiness for the job. Those scores are combined and ranked and each candidate is listed in order from most percentage points to the least to determine who gets promoted.
Fetchu spent three and half years on the Narcotics Task Force, and then was promoted to sergeant on April 2, 2007 and reassigned to the patrol division. She worked as patrol supervisor for about four years until 2011 when she transferred to the Criminal Investigation Division where she supervised a group of detectives for about a year.
"As a sergeant I was far more involved in the day-to-day activities of the police department," said Fetchu. "I had oversight of a shift of officers that including everything from scheduling, to crime scene management. It is the sergeant's responsibility to manage everyday activities."
Her ascent through the ranks is aided by the support of her husband. Fetchu said her husband is very proud and supportive of her, though he worries like many spouses of police officers. James Fetchu, a landscape architect at environmental engineering company, CPJ & Associates, also hails from Ramey. The couple also have a six-year-old daughter, Lindsay.
"I enjoy spending time with my family," said Fetchu. "We like to go camping and canoeing during the summer, and for myself, I like to jog and exercise. It gives me time to clear my mind and refocus."
Over the last 12 years Fetchu has experienced a lot. She's participated in undercover prostitution stings and undercover narcotics deals and has assisted with homicide investigations. The hours can sometimes be long and tedious, she said, and working on holidays and weekends away from her family can be difficult.
But her persistence has paid off. On July 11, Fetchu earned a promotion to the rank of lieutenant.
"I am proud to be where I am and I have always taken the attitude that the job needs done regardless of my gender," said Fetchu. "I certainly recognize that there have been women before me that have paved the way. That includes those who chose not to make rank and the one woman before me that did."
I know how dedicated Becky is to being a good cop and the extra time she put in preparing for the written and interview portions of the lieutenant process," said James Fetchu. "But I am most proud of the way she has been able to balance our family life and raise our daughter in a loving and structured home."
As lieutenant, Fetchu serves as a platoon commander who is responsible for a shift that includes three sergeants and 17 patrol officers. The job entails far more administrative responsibilities; everything from policy issues to determining what direction the department is moving in and how we need to get there.
She also serves as a liaison for community groups like neighborhood watches.
"The most rewarding part of being a police officer is when you know that you have really helped someone, which can be as simple as giving some advice," said Fetchu. "It's also very rewarding when you can help a victim of a crime."