ToquiNotes: Bridgeport Police Lt. Mike Lemley Newest Member of Exclusive Law Enforcement Club

By Jeff Toquinto on September 30, 2017 from ToquiNotes via

The ceremony was heartfelt, but brief. There were kind words spoken about him and words spoken by him, but for the most part everything was on point – even after a standing ovation.
For those having the privilege of knowing Bridgeport Police Lt. M.J. Lemley – or Mike as his friends have long called him – they’re probably not surprised. Anyone who’s been associated with him in an official capacity knows when he’s in uniform he goes about business in a professional and efficient manner.
Such was the case Monday when Lemley became part of rare group here in the City of Bridgeport. And he became part of that group because he completed something that was just as rare in West Virginia and nationally.
Mike Lemley is now one of just two officers on the Bridgeport Police Department (Lt. Doug Betler is the other) roster to be a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He recently applied, was accepted and became one of two representatives from all of West Virginia in the 269th session of the Academy that is held in Quantico, Va.
In the long history of the Bridgeport Police Department, there has only been one other member to be a graduate of the academy. And that is the late Lt. James Hotsinpiller, a long-time beloved and respected member of law enforcement in Bridgeport.
At Monday’s Bridgeport City Council meeting, Lemley was recognized for his graduation from the academy. Understand, graduating from the Academy is no easy chore – from getting accepted to completing it – yet I’m betting all that know Lt. Lemley knew there was a 100 percent chance he would get through.
“It’s basically a leadership course not only designed to make you a better leader, but also to give you networking connections that you wouldn’t have before. You build relationships with officers from your state, adjoining states, all over the country and across the world,” Lemley said.
Lemley isn’t exaggerating. There were 22 nations represented at in the 269th class.
Here’s the thing: Even if Lemley hadn’t attended and graduated from the FBI National Academy, he’s like many that put on the uniform to serve their community as a first responder. He deserves our praise and recognition.
While many of you know Mike Lemley, there’s likely many in the community that don’t. What that could mean is you’ve not had an encounter with him or needed the services of law enforcement, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, when you’ve been around as long as Lemley the chances for an encounter in some capacity increases.
Mike Lemley began his career with the Bridgeport Police Department almost 20 years ago to this day. His first day was Nov. 3, 1997 as a patrol officer. He had five years of law enforcement prior to that, which means he’s been in law enforcement roughly a quarter of a century.
Four years after his arrival, Lemley and current Deputy Chief Randy Hartley moved up to detective and worked investigation for nearly six years. Lemley said the experience was invaluable, as was working with Hartley and developing a relationship where the two became and still remain the best of friends.
“We built a lot of trust amongst each other, fed off each other and helped each other quite a bit,” said Lemley, who handles accident reconstruction and the police radio program. “I grew a lot working with Deputy Chief Hartley.”
In 2010, Lemley climbed the ladder again. This time, he was promoted to sergeant and a short time later, in 2012, he went to his current position of lieutenant.
Chief John Walker, who praised Lemley during Monday’s ceremony, said having him on staff with such experience when he arrived to take over was a huge benefit.
“He’s a highly dedicated officer that has been successful in the department coming up through the ranks … He’s the type of officer every department wants to have,” said Walker. “Having an officer like him here when I arrived helped with my transition and to this day makes my job easier.”
As much as Lemley enjoys his work, he said the best experience he’s had involved his most recent one. He called the time at the FBI National Academy his best professional experience.
But, there’s been others that spurred his memory when asked during his two decades with the Bridgeport Police Department.
Lemley recalls solving a rash of home invasions involving a group and a main suspect in Bridgeport that involved a case of a near abduction of a city child many years ago, a case involving a child being stalked that ended up going all the way to the West Virginia Supreme Court and a few more.
“(The stalking case) was upheld and it helped change stalking laws across the country,” said Lemley.
There were others, including some involving his handling of Bridgeport’s Special Response Team (SRT). He helped secure a peaceful resolution to get a subject barricaded in a home out with no major issues and just a few weekends ago he was part of roughly 100 officers involved in searching down three suspects from an Ohio carjacking incident that ended in West Milford.
I was there for a few hours that recent Sunday in West Milford. I don’t know if it was Mike Lemley’s day off, but I can assure you as he stood there in full armor that he was putting in a double digit hour day and would offer no complaints.
“One of the best things about this job is working with the people we have in the Bridgeport department,” said Lemley, who serves as lead instructor for the department’s firearms program. “That’s an honor every day.”
Yet, there are things that weigh heavy on his mind. There are a few cases that he said “still haunt me.”
One involves the murder of Kyle Smith, which took place on July 12, 2006. It happened on the corner of Philadelphia and Center Street and even coverage on national television of the case, which included discussions with the suspects and main suspect, has not led to a resolution.
“I think every day about the Kyle Smith murder,” said Lemley, co-commander of the SRT.
Another incident involved a vehicle that caught on fire on one of the city’s state routes. A man was inside and trapped and Lemley was on the scene and tried, without success, to free him.
“I remember trying to free a man trapped on Route 131 in a burning truck with Jeff Petroski, who is now a (Sheriff’s) Deputy,” said Lemley. “We tried our best to free the man even after our fire extinguishers went out.”
Lemley said the worst part of his job is something he knows him and others here and beyond deal with too often, and that’s crimes and situations involving children. From accidents to abductions and more, Lemley knows it is part of what he has to face.
“Those are always the toughest because I’ve got four kids of my own. Seeing a young child that’s hurt is always difficult,” said Lemley.
That’s another thing that officers like Lemley should be lauded for – time away from the family. His wife Karen, he said, has sacrificed plenty to help him move ahead in his career and they’ve managed to do that and raise four children in Timmy, Ashley, William and Karley.
Lemley took the time to thank his family Monday as his wife stood by his side during the presentation. He also thanks those that filled in for him during his 10 weeks at Quantico and the City of Bridgeport for allowing him to go through with the specialized training.
After two decades, Lemley has no regrets. Bridgeport, he said, was his dream job when he got into law enforcement and was thrilled to join the force in 1997.
“At that time, Bridgeport was one of the highest paid places in the state and where most in the field wanted to work. A great community with a low crime rate, good pay and good benefits,” said Lemley, who leads the C-shift seven-member unit. “Not much has changed over the years and it’s still a great place to work. This is a great community.”
We’re glad you’re still here Lieutenant. Congratulations on your graduation and also for serving the City of Bridgeport for nearly 20 years.
It’s appreciated.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Mike Lemley, left, receiving a plaque from Chief John Walker Monday, while he's shown with his friend and Deputy Chief Randy Hartley int he second photo. Third photo shows Lemley on the scene on the scene of the Johnson Avenue Plaza fire (now the home of Dan Cava's Used Car World) with retired Bridgeport fire personnel Randy Scott and Chuck Feathers. Bottom photo shows Lemley with his wife Karen at Monday's meeting.

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