A Rewarding Career in Law Enforcement

Michael Martin

Michael Martin
Lieutenant (Ret.), Howell (NJ) Police Department | Police Unity Tour Chapter 10/NJ

I was not on the ‘traditional’ path to becoming a law enforcement officer as I started college to become a trauma doctor. Quickly realizing that I did not have the academic abilities, I pursued my passion for cars and became a mechanic. Two years later, one of my best friends from high school became a State of NJ Corrections officer, and that sounded interesting, so I took that test and began the process. His Dad, a local police detective asked me, “What about the Sheriff’s Office?” I replied, “What’s a sheriff’s office?” His older son had joined the local sheriff’s office, so I applied there too, and when the decision to choose came about, I went with the Sheriff’s Office in 1989 as it was more appealing and, honestly, working inside a state prison was very intimidating to me. (Shout out to all our corrections law enforcement brothers and sisters, God Bless what you do each day!)

I would take the civil service test for my hometown police department (Linden, NJ) on the first weekend after I started with the Sheriff’s Office. Back then, it was common to take multiple tests to have options and to get into the police academy and become a certified officer. I spent two ½ years with the Sheriff’s Office working various internal and external positions including the plainclothes warrant squad which had us chasing down offenders throughout the State. When my number came up for Linden, I knew that being a uniformed patrol officer was my new goal. I joined the Linden Police Department in 1992 and worked patrol as well as other interesting assignments – K9, Narcotics, Detective Bureau, Task Forces, and one of my most treasured assignments, the Union County Emergency Response Team or UCERT. This was a county-wide, multi-jurisdictional team of professionals that managed the higher-end tactical assignments. This was where I collaborated with great operators and leaders, with excellent supervision and command skills which would come to benefit me later in the career. In 2004, I switched departments again to join the Howell Police Department which was closer to home and better for my family. I made a fresh start, from the bottom, and worked my way up to Sergeant in 2009 and Lieutenant in 2013, and retired with 27 years of service in 2016. I have made great friends from all the agencies I worked with during my assignments and am lucky to still have them in my circle of friendship.

Michael Martin serving as survivor escort at annual Candlelight Vigil Michael Martin serving as survivor escort at annual Candlelight Vigil
Police Unity Tour Serving as survivor escort at Vigil Featured on cover of
The Rose & Shield magazine

I was a member of the Police Unity Tour from 2008 through 2018 with Chapter 10 from Central New Jersey. During the Unity Tour, I had the highest honor to escort the survivors of the fallen officers to their seats for the annual Candlelight Vigil. I even had my picture taken at the Memorial which was used as the first cover photo of The Rose & Shield magazine put out by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. I miss those long bicycle rides from NJ to Washington, DC; but, I know that there are thousands of other officers still honoring our fallen officers each May.

My career was truly rewarding, as I will never forget the people I have helped, such as the domestic violence victim who was physically and mentally abused by her ex-football player husband. After arresting him twice, he knew that our department would not back down, and we would support his wife and daughter; he finally moved out of her home and allowed her and their daughter to live in peace. Getting the letter of her daughter’s acceptance to college in pursuit of her dream of becoming a doctor and that it would not have happened without my squad’s help, really hit home.

Another rewarding case was a five-year-old girl who was attacked by a hundred-pound dog in 1994. My partner and I were able to get the dog off her and although suffering severe head and neck lacerations, she made a full recovery and I hope to meet her again one day.

I cannot summarize my career and the fact that I made it safe to my retirement without mentioning my first true Field Training Officer (FTO), who showed me the right way to be a police officer and to always do it safely. Thirty years later, I call you one of my best friends who has always been there for me. To a true “Cop’s Cop;” thanks Don!!

I am fortunate for “happening” into the role of a law enforcement officer, and grateful to God for protecting me through all the danger, helping countless citizens, and providing for my family. I am no hero, but my family is for seeing me drive off for work each night not knowing if I would return. Today’s officers are faced with so many new challenges compared to my generation of officers; they deserve our respect, admiration, and best wishes.

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