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Varner named Officer of the Year by Hagerstown Exchange Club

November 07, 2008

Officer Nick Varner of the Hagerstown Police Department's Downtown Squad says he has an ongoing bet with his fellow officers: If there's a call downtown, he'll beat them to it on his bicycle.

That determination is just one of the reasons that the Hagerstown Exchange Club named him Police Officer of the Year.

Varner, who has been with the department since 2006, was nominated by Sgt. Kevin Simmers, who in his nominating letter said that it was the young officer's "professional demeanor and willingness to learn" that gained him the respect and admiration of peers and superiors.

Simmers noted that the members of the Downtown Squad, formed in 2003, must deal with businesspeople, government officials, the young, the elderly and sometimes the criminal element, on a daily basis.

Chief Arthur Smith said that Varner had led the department in "on view" arrests, a term that means that the officer witnessed the crime. By August of this year, Varner had made 80 arrests, 15 of which were drug-related, Simmers said.

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Simmers' nominating letter noted that Varner is more than just a police officer.

"He volunteers regularly for many of our public relations assignments, which include speaking to students about drugs, performing bike-safety demonstrations, running the fingerprint booth at the Walnut Street Health Fair and National Night Out," Simmers wrote.

Simmers wrote that Varner also coaches a team with the Hagers-town Junior Basketball League and has coached girls basketball in Clear Spring.

When it was his turn to speak, Varner said that he appreciated the honor, considering that "three years ago I was a college kid and I didn't have a lot of training."

He praised Simmers, his supervisor for the last two years, and said he felt the squad was making a positive difference, by keeping in touch with local businesses, monitoring locations troubled with crime and even talking to juveniles as a role model.

"It's a shame to see how many juveniles run the street without parental supervision," he said.

As part of its award, Exchange Club officials gave Varner a plaque and two tickets to the University of Maryland (College Park) homecoming football game.

The Exchange Club is a national service club that supports a variety of local nonprofit groups. Its main cause is the prevention of child abuse through a local agency, the Parent-Child Center, a nonprofit agency at 998 Potomac Ave. in Hagerstown.

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