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New Hancock officer fulfilling dream

January 11, 1999

Bart RuppenthalHANCOCK - At age 14, Bart Ruppenthal, a lifelong Hancock resident, held a neighborhood robber at gunpoint after returning from a hunting trip and stumbling upon the crime in progress.

The Maryland State Police then awarded the young Ruppenthal a certificate of valor for his heroic act, and Ruppenthal said he was overwhelmed with pride while standing before the state police graduating class.

At that point, the son of Lewis "Buck" and Rosalie Ruppenthal of Hancock knew he wanted to be a law enforcement officer.

Following in the footsteps of his two idols, Cpl. Tony Bequette of the Maryland State Police in Cumberland, Md., and Sgt. Thomas Winebrenner of the Frederick County Sheriff's Department, Ruppenthal saw his lifelong goal fulfilled on Dec. 15, after he reported for his first day of work with the Hancock Police Department.

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Though Ruppenthal said he took a substantial pay cut by leaving his job as a correctional officer at the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown to work for the Hancock department, he has no regrets.

"I'd rather be happy than have money falling out of my pockets," he said. "I'm here for the love of the job."

And Ruppenthal, 25, said he hopes to to be able to help the town he loves realize the future that Hancock residents envision.

To curb the town's vandalism problem, Ruppenthal said he will work closely with Hancock's youth population and try to act as a positive role model. He said he wants to participate in the police department's youth Explorer Program, and teach kids that if they "set goals in life, shoot for them and never give up, life can be the best it can be."

Having gained his fellow townspeople's respect for his work as a certified Emergency Medical Technician, volunteer firefighter, rescue squad worker and former junior basketball coach, Ruppenthal said he didn't expect residents to resist his authority as a police officer.

"I've got a lot of people standing behind me," Ruppenthal said. "If I treat everybody fairly and impartially, I don't think I'll have any problems."

Though he graduated from the State of Maryland Correctional Academy, and has training in firearms, prisoners and other law enforcement fields, state laws mandate that Ruppenthal must attend the Police Academy from February to June before donning the uniform, said Hancock Police Chief Donald Gossage.

"I think he's a very energetic officer who wants to give back to the town," Gossage said. "It's truly to the benefit of the community to have a local boy in the police department."

Gossage said he hopes to provide Hancock residents with 20 hours daily of police coverage after Ruppenthal graduates from the academy.

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