Smithsburg man named Maryland State Police Trooper of the Year

April 22, 2010|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN -- Although he knew he was in the running for Maryland State Police Trooper of the Year, Trooper 1st Class Gary Bachtell said it was a surprise when his name was announced for the 2009 honor.

"I knew something was up when my kids walked in," Bachtell said.

His wife, Cherie, and his mother had accompanied him to the awards cweremony, but not the children.

Bachtell, 48, started working with the state police polygraph unit 13 years ago. He has been the state police polygraph coordinator since 2007.

Bachtell was nominated for the award by his sergeant, Phil Criddle, who described in a letter how impressed he was with Bachtell's performance.

"There is no denying the fact that the citizenry of our state has been well served and protected beyond measure by the dedication and pursuit of excellence demonstrated by Gary Bachtell in 2009," Criddle wrote in his nomination letter.


During 2009, Bachtell conducted 40 criminal-specific polygraph examinations. Fifteen resulted in a finding of deception and nearly 100 percent resulted in the subject confessing to the crime or admitting to some involvement in the crime.

"While the results of a polygraph are not admissible in court, anything the person says is admissible," Bachtell said. "I can testify to that, even confessions."

Last year, Bachtell conducted a polygraph exam in connection with a February house fire in Hancock that claimed the lives of two teenage girls. That polygraph led to a confession, state police said in a news relese.

Bachtell created a post-conviction sex offender testing program and proposed a Maryland law that would require sex offenders on parole and probation to take periodic polygraph tests, state police said. The state Division of Parole and Probation adopted Bachtell's proposal and, together with state police, a memo of understanding was signed and a testing program has been implemented, according to state police.

The primary purpose of the agreement is to make communities safer, Bachtell said.

"I deal with reality," he said. "With this, we can step up and be proactive."

Bachtell lives in Smithsburg, where he grew up. He was appointed to the Maryland State Police Academy in January 1985 and graduated first in his class. After graduation, he was assigned to the Hagerstown barrack, where he completed eight weeks of field training before being transferred to Baltimore County.

After tours in Westminster and Frederick, Bachtell was assigned to the criminal investigation section at Frederick. In 1997, he graduated with honors from the Maryland Institute of Criminal Justice Polygraph School and was reassigned to the Maryland State Police Polygraph Unit in March 1998.

Bachtell earned an associate degree in criminal justice from Hagerstown Community College.

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