Police captain says he likes 'the unknown'

July 29, 2002|by Liz Boch

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a weekly series spotlighting local heroes who work to give comfort to victims of tragedy, and save lives and property.

Capt. Charlie Summers doesn't mind putting in a 60-hour work week, going undercover on a drug bust or leaving family outings to answer a pager beep, radio signal or phone.

As one of only two captains in the Hagerstown City Police, he said he needs to be in the thick of it.

Summers, 46, grew up in the Westview Housing Projects in Hagerstown for 10 years.

He said his mother taught him to never feel second-best.

"My mom always provided for us," he said. "It's not where you grow up, but how you grow up."

Summers said he decided to enter the police academy while taking classes at Cobra Karate in Hagerstown. Paul Wood, the owner and former Hagerstown City Police Chief, steered him toward law enforcement.


"He was a good role model," Summers said. "I had such a good time between karate and the police officers there with me that I made a career out of it. I haven't looked back in 23 years."

After 14 weeks of training and working on patrol, Summers taught self-defense, firearms training and driving courses at the Western Maryland Police Academy. He then worked for the Special Response Team, the equivalent of a SWAT team.

By 1988, Summers was a corporal and six years later, he became a sergeant in the Narcotics Unit.

Summers said as a "workaholic," he enjoyed going undercover and the long, unusual hours.

"I liked the unknown, never knowing where the case would go that day," he said. "You have to make crime happen in front of you or on videotape."

He remembered when the unit arrested Derrick Green, a Hagerstown resident and notorious drug dealer, with the help of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service. Green was sentenced to 27 years without parole, an unusually long sentence for a drug conviction.

"The crux of the case was, we did a historical investigation of his past," he said. "We put tons and tons of witnesses on the stand to prove his guilt. We showed that Hagerstown could do it."

Summers said the case led to the creation of the DEA Hagerstown Regional Task Force.

Since becoming a captain in July 2000, Summers still focuses on street work.

"You got to come to play every day," he said. "My first responsibility is to be a police officer, not sit behind a desk all day."

He said he could not have done so well without the support of his wife, Diann, 37, and children, Courtney, 14, and Travis, 10.

"Diann knew what she was getting into and has been so supportive," he said.

Police Chief Arthur Smith said Summers has the rare quality of still enjoying his job after more than 20 years, despite the long hours and difficult conditions.

"I've never seen someone who has a better combination of job knowledge, enthusiasm and intelligence," he said. "He's right at the top of a very short list."

Sgt. Kevin Simmers worked with Summers before his promotion to captain and said Summers implemented DrugTrac, a software program that allows police to track drug activity through vehicle tags, real names or names used on the street.

"He plays by the rules completely," Simmers said. "His integrity is above anyone I've ever met."

Summers said although it upsets him to occasionally put the children of people he arrested years ago in jail for similar charges, he still thinks he makes a difference.

"I've seen times when the streets were better and worse for drugs and violence, but I'm unwilling to give up," he said. "You still go at it."

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