Martinez receives state-level Officer of the Year honor

Published 6:24 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2024

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City of Franklin Police Department Officer Trisha Martinez received an epic surprise when she returned to FPD headquarters Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 9.

Waiting for her there were leaders from Franklin City Public Schools, the city government, the FPD and the Virginia Law Enforcement Foundation, along with TV and print media members, friends and her parents. They all had gathered to be part of the presentation to her of the VALE Mike Walter Memorial Officer of the Year Award.

The award is presented annually to a Virginia officer who goes above and beyond to serve their community.

Martinez serves as the sole school resource officer in the city, working to safeguard the students of S.P. Morton Elementary School, J.P. King Jr. Middle School and Franklin High School.

Martinez entered a conference room at FPD headquarters Tuesday afternoon and was greeted by applause from the aforementioned waiting individuals.

Martinez smiled and in confusion said, “What is going on?”

FPD Chief Steve Patterson assured her that everything was fine and instructed her to take a seat so she could find out.

Virginia Law Enforcement Foundation (VALE) President and Public Information Officer Keith L. Culver opened the presentation ceremony by sharing details about the award’s namesake, Mike Walter.

As noted in a VALE news release, the Office of the Year Award is named after Virginia State Police Special Agent Mike Walter, who was killed in the line of duty on May 27, 2017. Walter was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, had served with the VSP for 18 years and was assigned to the Bureau of Criminal Investigations’ Drug Enforcement Section at the time of his death. 

Walter, along with his wife Jamie and friend Richard FitzSimmons, founded Powhatan Youth Wrestling and Community Development Corporation as a nonprofit in 2008 and went on to build the Blackhawk Wrestling Gym in Powhatan, Culver stated. To the Blackhawk Gym members and wrestlers, Walter was known as “Coach Mike,” and he founded the club for the purpose of molding and shaping youth to become future leaders. 

“Wrestling throughout his school career taught Mike a great deal — the mental and physical toughness that prepared him for service in the United States Marines,” Culver said during the presentation ceremony. “Mike served our country as a Marine for five years. He then went on to the Virginia Capitol Police in Richmond and served there for two years before he moved on to the state police.”

Culver explained that while with the VSP, Walter became a K-9 handler in the Drug Enforcement Unit, and from there he moved on as a special agent in the Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

“Mike was an example of a driven man with a mission of making his community safer and a better place,” Culver said. “It’s because of Mike’s dedication and devotion to his community that each year, VALE seeks out and requests nominations for Virginia law enforcement officers who, like Mike, go above and beyond to serve their community, those officers who are giving back and making an impact in their community beyond their normal duties.

“It is therefore my extreme pleasure and honor to announce to you today that the 2023 VALE Mike Walter Memorial Officer of the Year is Officer Trisha Martinez with the Franklin City Police Department,” he said.

Next, Culver introduced one of Martinez’s peers at the FPD, Cpl. Peter S. Trimble, who nominated her for the award.

Trimble is assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division at the FPD. 

“When I read about the Mike Walter Officer of the Year Award, I thought that there was no other officer more deserving of the award than Officer Martinez,” he said. “I’ve worked with Officer Martinez since around 2021, and I believe she exemplifies the essence of community policing, and her ability to connect with the youth of our community has been nothing short of extraordinary.

“In today’s day and age, building trust between law enforcement and the community is paramount, and Officer Martinez has excelled in fostering positive relationships with our younger residents,” he continued. “I’ve observed Officer Martinez’s genuine and compassionate approach to interacting with our youth. She takes time to listen, understand and connect with our youth on a personal level.

“Through her dedication, Officer Martinez has successfully bridged the gap between law enforcement and the youth, contributing to a safer community for us all,” he said.

He then presented a video tribute that Franklin High School staff members had put together for Martinez. The tribute featured a series of snapshots of Martinez working with students at a variety of different school events.

After Martinez was presented with a plaque commemorating her status as Officer of the Year, she shared a few words.

“I appreciate everything, and I do enjoy doing things with the community,” she said. “It’s my favorite part of the job … going out and trying to make a difference.”

This story will be developed further. Check back for an update.