New leader at barracks plans to 'go out and be a policeman'

February 17, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

McCONNELLSBURG, PA. - After more than 20 years in different jobs across Pennsylvania, Sgt. David Copley is where he expects to be until retirement, and settling in nicely ... although his view on life is still gray.

In fact, Copley says he even bleeds gray - the color of his Pennsylvania State Police uniform.

He wears that uniform nearly all the time, even though he is permitted to wear civilian clothes as the new station commander in McConnellsburg. Copley also enjoys routine patrols, which are not required of the person in his position.

He does these things, he said, simply because he likes being a police officer.

"I'm a hands-on guy. I was hired as a policeman, (and) I like being a policeman," the sergeant said.

"My last day, I'll probably write a traffic ticket ..." Copley said, then paused. "... at least."

"I'd like to catch a bank robber my last day," he conceded with a smile.


He'll have the option of scheduling that last day in as early as three years when he is given the option of retirement, capping a career that included stints in vice, narcotics, criminal investigation, liquor control and community service. He has supervised patrolmen, detectives and fire marshals.

Copley figures the experiences have made him a well-rounded leader.

If nothing else, they have made him well-traveled, with time spent in police stations in Newville, Harrisburg, Altoona, Hollidaysburg and Bedford.

Copley arrived in McConnellsburg four weeks ago with boxes that were never unpacked from several moves, one of which actually had him stationed there for slightly more than a year at the end of the 1990s.

Upon his return, Copley found a note at the station's front desk that said, "The chicken likes doughnuts."

Indeed, as Copley was getting to know the troopers at the station, he also found himself befriending Cluck Cluck, who lives outside the barracks.

Cluck Cluck was relatively easy to win over, with the purchase of some feed from a local store.

And the troopers?

They have been adjusting to Copley's strict adherence to policy, he said. Although physically separated from state police headquarters in Harrisburg by about 75 miles, Copley wants to ensure the station is run "as efficiently and professionally as the biggest and busiest stations in the state."

"This station has a personality," said Copley, who said he maintains an open-door policy for his staff and the public.

Copley, 44, hopes the troopers find him to be a mentor of the same quality as those he had early in his career.

"You're the boss. You're the big brother," said Copley, who supervises a sergeant, four corporals, one clerk, three civilian communications operators, two criminal investigators and 14 patrol troopers.

The troopers know many of the 14,000 residents of Fulton County, although Copley said that is both good and bad. While it means the troopers are involved in their community, there might also be a day when the trooper's neighbor could be a victim or a suspect.

Copley and his wife, Lori, make their home in Bedford County, Pa., where he is involved in his own community through the Chamber of Commerce and a victim advocacy group. Copley has lived in Bedford County his entire adult life while working in other parts of Pennsylvania.

Copley, who wanted to be a police officer ever since watching a police show at age 5, first saw the work of the Pennsylvania State Police as a child growing up in rural Tioga County.

"The state police were the crme de la crme," said Copley, who enlisted to join their ranks in September 1983.

While upholding that standard he formed as a child, Copley now wants to do right by his troopers and supervisors and primarily just "go out and be a policeman."

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