Elks honor choices for top police officer, firefighter


WHEN COUNTY police Officer Mark Braswell deals with kids about juvenile problems on the playground, the streets or at their homes, he tells them to call him "Officer Mark." If the youngsters remember his name the next time he sees them, they have earned "Braswell Bonus Points," a technique he uses to help the children view police in a positive light.

Braswell's efforts to forge a good relationship between police and the community led him to be named the Severna Park Elks' Police Officer of the Year.

Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan recommended Braswell, who received his award in a ceremony at the lodge Saturday evening.

A Marylander who grew up in Prince George's County, Braswell worked in Anne Arundel's Southern District before moving to the Eastern a year and a half ago. His beat is U.S. 50 from Annapolis to the Bay Bridge, and north on Ritchie Highway, through Arnold, Severna Park and Pasadena, to Route 100.

Braswell says the Eastern District received more calls for service last year than the other three divisions. "Sometimes you're not even finished one call, and you've got two more stacked on you," he says.

Many of the calls involve juveniles, and some identify Braswell by the license tag on his patrol vehicle: AA 0911. They know that 911 is the number to call for help and associate it with Officer Mark.

"My police car was in the shop about a year ago," says Braswell, "and I was driving a borrowed car. I received a call one night to investigate some juveniles breaking the law, but when I arrived on the scene the kids didn't recognize my license number, so they ran away.

"As soon as I caught up to them, they said, 'Man, we looked at the car number and it wasn't yours.' But they all stopped running and came back once they found out it was me. I feel it's important to build a rapport between the police and the kids, because they are the future congressmen and presidents of the United States."

After two years of college, he served in the Army as a helicopter pilot -- graduating at the top of his class in flight training. He also graduated first from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia and began his career in law enforcement in 1992 with the National Institutes of Health Police Department.

When he transferred to the Anne Arundel Police Department in 1996, Braswell graduated first in his academic class from the police academy.

Determined to keep a record of his experiences on the job, he often discusses writing a book with a friend from his work as a federal officer. They agree that if they don't write down the things happening to them, they'll have forgotten half of it by the time they retire.

"I'd like to write a book, but I would rather spend my free time with my wife, Gloria," says Braswell, 34, who has been married for two years. Though his wife and family wish he would enter a more financially rewarding and less dangerous business, Braswell sees himself as "Officer Mark" for the next 20 years -- at least.

Along with his honor, the Elks honored their Fireman of the Year: David C. Povlitz, 29, a career firefighter at the Jones station in Arnold since 1994. Povlitz drives fire engines and ladder trucks.

Povlitz earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and a bachelor's degree in fire science from the University of Maryland.

He thinks higher education is important for firefighters. "Future leaders may find themselves in charge of 40 to 60 firefighters in adverse conditions," says Povlitz. "You need the management and communication skills that are taught in college."

There's more to firefighting than heroic firefighters rescuing people from burning buildings. Povlitz says the real rewards are "a culmination of the small things," like meeting a child he recognizes shopping with her mother, when only a few days before firefighters had saved her from choking on candy.

While many of Anne Arundel's fire stations are volunteer companies with a few paid county firefighters, everyone at Jones is a county employee. Because of this, Jones provides special operations units beyond its assigned territory, which is between the Severn and Magothy rivers from Park Plaza to Anne Arundel Community College.

Units like Jones' Tactical Rope and Confined Space Rescue Team -- more than two dozen specialized firefighters trained for emergencies such as rescuing a child from a well -- serve the entire county.

Like his fellow firefighters, Povlitz works a 24-hour shift followed by 48 hours off.

"Since his arrival at Jones, he has taught in two recruit training schools for career firefighters and is currently pursuing certification as a dive master," says Jones' acting captain, Keith D. Swindle, who recommended Povlitz for the Elks award. A dive rescue team is called when water rescue is required. The dive master supervises the team, Povlitz says.

If he had time, Povlitz says he would be a career firefighter and a volunteer.

"Well, it just kind of makes sense," he says. "People may work for one fire department, but may live somewhere else like the Eastern Shore. There is no paid force there, and the only fire protection comes from the volunteers."

"I'd love to be the fire chief some day," says Povlitz, who grew up in what he calls the "idyllic" town of Bear, Del., south of Wilmington. "I've always had a lean toward public service."

He and his wife, Patricia, are expecting their first child in a few weeks.

New Elks officers were installed Saturday evening. They are Exalted Ruler Robert Burns, Esteemed Leading Knight Joseph Jedrowicz, Esteemed Loyal Knight Donald Hancock, Esteemed Lecturing Knight Carol Adkins, Secretary Robert Hearn, Treasurer Mabel Rupert, Esquire George Manning, Tiler Roland Liebman Jr., Chaplain G. Martin Horich and Inner Guard John Groves.

Trustees are Warden Bailey, Walter Keeler, Robert Ruppert and Robert Short.

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