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Newest police officer is a video star

Tankersley moves to full-time and will take on National Night Out

By Dan Miller, danmiller@pressandjournal.com
Posted 3/7/17

Middletown’s newest full-time police officer is being put to the test very quickly — and we don’t just mean going out on calls or chasing down bad guys.

Interim Police Chief George Mouchette …

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Newest police officer is a video star

Tankersley moves to full-time and will take on National Night Out

Posted

Middletown’s newest full-time police officer is being put to the test very quickly — and we don’t just mean going out on calls or chasing down bad guys.
Interim Police Chief George Mouchette is putting Officer Adam Tankersley in charge of this year’s National Night Out. 
To refresh, Middletown gets into National Night Out in a big way — so much that the borough’s 2016 event was recognized as one of the best in the country for a town its size by National Night Out, a nationwide organization based near Philadelphia.
For the past several years organizing Middletown’s annual National Night Out has been Gary Rux’s baby. But Rux has been promoted to detective, adding a few other tasks to his plate. While this year’s National Night Out will be more of a “group effort,” the chief has put it in the lap of the new guy.
In terms of being out there in the community, Tankersley is off to a good start. A few weeks ago the 28-year-old was caught on a cellphone video in an impromptu game of basketball with some kids in Oak Hill. 
The video has about 9,000 views. Mayor James H. Curry III was delighted and singled out Tankersley for a proclamation during the Feb. 21 borough council meeting.
Tankersley shrugged it off during a recent interview with the Press & Journal.
“It was a nice day out, I was just driving around trying to get up into areas that aren’t patrolled as much as others due to crime activity,” he said. “I saw about 12 kids probably 8 to 13 years old playing basketball. I rolled down my window and they started waving me towards them. I put my radio up loud and for 15 to 20 minutes” played hoops.
“Not once did I think, ‘I hope someone films me, I hope someone takes a picture of this,’” Tankersley said.

“It’s what I grew up on, it’s what my morals are. Going out there helping kids, expressing the importance of safety. What a police officer does.”
Tankersley also remembers being one of those kids, playing basketball on a court near Palmyra High School, when they were approached by a borough police officer.
“He said, ‘How long are you gonna be here?’ A few of us were like, ‘For another hour,’” Tankersley said. “They came back a half hour later and they played with us. That was kind of cool. I always envisioned myself doing that when I became an officer.”

Police not the plan
Being a cop wasn’t Tankersley’s plan growing up in Cleona. He didn’t really have a plan. Graduating from Cedar Crest High School, he got a degree in international studies from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, but he didn’t know what to do. He thought about politics, and landscaping, but nothing clicked. 
His mom suggested he look into law enforcement. She had worked as a secretary for the State Police, but being a municipal cop appealed more to Tankersley.
He wanted to be in a community that he knew, to have people come up to him — and to play hoops with them. Nothing against state police, but “I don’t want to be out on the highway just cruising.”
It took Tankersley a year to get through the police academy at Harrisburg Area Community College because he could only go part-time. But five months after graduating from the academy, he landed a part-time position with the Pine Grove Police Department in Schuylkill County. 
He moved on to a position with the Lower Paxton Township Police Department. He liked the job overall, but was still looking for just the right fit.
The right fit came in the form of one of Tankersley’s lifting partners at LA Fitness, a guy by the name of John Bey who just happened to be chief of the Middletown Police Department.
“He said, ‘Listen, I got a place for you here in Middletown. Apply and we’ll get you started,’” Tankersley said.
He took Bey up on the offer and by October 2016, Tankersley was hired as a part-time officer with the MPD. He said he fell “in love with the job,” and when borough council added a new full-time position to the department as part of the 2017 budget, Tankersley went for it.
He was approved — in fact Tankersley was the only person who applied for the full-time opening — but it wasn’t until February that borough council approved the promotion.
Mayor James H. Curry III initially sought to hold off on filling the full-time position, expressing concern that it would add “complexity” to discussions underway toward the borough contracting with Lower Swatara Township for police services, or for the borough becoming part a new regional police force. Those talks are still underway.
In any event, Tankersley said he is grateful to Curry and to council for giving him the opportunity to be a full-time officer.
Tankersley has completed all his field training, so he is ready to go, said Mouchette, who was appointed interim chief of the Middletown department after Bey resigned at the end of December.
“He’s very smart,” Mouchette said of Tankersley. “He’s very humble and he’s a sponge. He is always willing to listen. This guy is very humble, very polite, very respectful. He fits right in with the community.”

Making a difference
Being a police officer has always been a tough job but it seems tougher nowadays. With seemingly every citizen armed with a cellphone camera ready to document their every imperfect act, you have to wonder why anyone would want to be a police officer.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Tankersley said. “It sounds cheesy or cliche, but I want to make a difference. I know I can help people with my verbiage, how I can talk to them. Being young I can relate to them, or just do my best trying to investigate a situation. It may not always come out good for them or come out good for me, but I’m always thinking 110 percent.”
“It’s in the back of my mind,” Tankersley said of the danger and stresses inherent in policing. “I stay safe. I know that Chief Mouchette has my back no matter what. Any of the guys I work with, they have my back no matter what. I don’t worry about that. I feel like fear is a weakness. I don’t even think about that.”

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