Walking (to) his own beat

Howard’s top cop follows in father’s footsteps

April 16, 2010|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

From the earliest age, Howard County police officer Jose Marichal Jr. wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, Jose Sr., a detective in Boston.

"Just seeing my dad, the way he talked to people and the way people respected him when he walked around the community, that's what I kind of wanted to do," Marichal said in an interview last week. "Someone who can go out and talk to people in the area, people can trust me where there's sometimes a lack of trust with the police, I wanted people to believe otherwise when they talked to me."

It took a couple of detours — the first at a local community college for a year and the other in the U.S. Army that lasted a decade — for the younger Marichal to start down a similar path. When he started looking around at various police agencies around the country, he quickly settled on Howard County.

"I wanted to be a police officer and I wanted to stay on the East Coast, and Howard County pretty much stood out," Marichal said. "They seemed the most motivated and the most professional of the police departments I came across."

Three years after joining the department, Marichal will be honored Monday as the Howard County police officer of the year for 2009.

"I'm definitely excited, I didn't expect to get it this quick," Marichal said. "The first one I called was my dad. He's proud of me; everything I've done, he's supported."

Marichal was nominated for the award by Sgt. Toby Fulton, who said that Marichal is "an extremely dedicated and motivated officer."

According to police spokeswoman Elizabeth Schroen, Marichal was the primary officer in response to 700 calls, and made 118 arrests. Fulton said that while Marichal's stats were "impressive," it was his initiative that set him apart. Marichal was responsible for helping set up a surveillance unit at the Long Reach Village Center that helped cut down the number of calls to that area by a third, Fulton said.

Fulton said that Marichal worked both on- and off-duty with business owners and residents of nearby apartments to help pinpoint those involved in criminal activity in the area.

"A lot of people have ideas; he saw it through to make it actually happen," Fulton said.

A patrol officer in Long Reach, Marichal said that his father was his role model, but he also credits his military training for giving him the street instincts and work ethic he's used to thrive. Marichal served two tours in Iraq and earned a Purple Heart after he was injured during an IED attack in December 2005. He was en route to protect polling sites during the country's first national election since the war began.

The injury came during the next-to-last month of his second tour. Mild compared to the number of casualties and other serious injuries caused by IEDs, Marichal said he suffered only a mild concussion, severe brusing of the right side of his body and a fragment of the IED was lodged behind his right ear.

He said he was back in combat within a few weeks and shortly after rejoining his unit, Marichal was shipped home. His second tour ended.

"With the level of training and discipline you get in the military, I think that helped me in the situation I'm in now in terms of my work ethic," said Marichal, who started as an infantryman and rose to staff seargent in the First Battallion 30th Infantry Unit. "Going to Iraq, they train you so much to keep your eyes open. You never know who's watching you. You can get attacked from anywhere.

"When you come home from Iraq, the enemy isn't looking for you anymore, but as a police officer, you can be attacked at any time. You're constantly thinking. The Army trains you in different scenarios, because you never know what's going to happen. I kind of do that now as a police officer. It's also about talking to people. In Iraq, you're handing out toys to childen. I do the same thing here. I try to get involved with the people."

Though his life has never been threatened or under attack, his security has been threatened, Marichal said, mostly when breaking up fights at the Long Reach Village Center.

"Those have kind of been out of control," he said. "You're constantly surrounded, sometimes outnumbered 10 to 1."

Marichal said he is happy being a patrol officer, and isn't sure where the path will lead.

Undoubtedly, it might be similar to that taken by his father.

"I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do jobwise, in the Police Department," the detective's son said. "I've looked at auto theft, I've looked at robbery, I've also have a love for SWAT and stuff like that. Right now, I enjoy working patrol and working out of Long Reach.

Long Reach has had its problems and I think the people I'm working with, we can come to a resolution of those problems."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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