Gary Martin wasn’t present Dec. 8 for the graduation of the Northwest Indiana Law Enforcement Academy’s 15th class of police officers at Indiana University Northwest, but he was the guest of honor nonetheless. Martin, a longtime police officer and IU Northwest faculty member, was killed along with Indiana State Police Lt. Gary Dudley in a tragic downstate highway accident Aug. 22 while participating in a charity bike ride to benefit the families of fallen officers.
On Friday, Martin’s friends, colleagues and NILEA students remembered the man who taught them so much about what it means to be an officer of the law.
“What can be said about Gary Martin that has not already been said?” asked Timothy Wardrip, NILEA’s executive director. “We all remember him in our own way, because he touched our lives in so many ways. I can tell you that Gary loved this police academy, and this academy loves Gary Martin.”
To honor Martin, who not only taught at the academy but also had been active in working to bring the facility to IU Northwest, the NILEA Board of Directors this year created a special award, the Gary L. Martin Mental Attitude Award. This recognition is given to the graduate who best reflects Martin’s love of law enforcement and his positive approach to the job.
With Martin’s immediate family — wife Olga, daughter Jennifer, and son Greg -- present in the audience, Wardrip joined other NILEA officials in presenting the first Gary L. Martin Award to graduate Roger Blanton of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. Afterward, Lake County Police Chief Marco Kuyachich joined Lake County Sheriff Rogelio “Roy” Dominguez in announcing that Dominguez will establish a $1,000 annual scholarship to be awarded to the recipient of the Mental Attitude Award.
Martin served more than three years as Lake County Police Chief under Dominguez, beginning in 2003. Kuyachich served as Martin’s deputy chief. Kuyachich said that Martin had more students than just those who sat in his classes; working with the man, he said, was an education all its own.
“In 26 years in law enforcement, I never learned half as much as I learned in three years with Gary Martin,” Kuyachich said.
Robert Rees, president of the 22-member graduating class, recalled a NILEA class on law enforcement jurisdiction that Martin began to teach shortly before he died. He said Martin kicked things off by challenging his students’ motivations for becoming police officers.
“Gary started off the (first) class by inciting our anger, and he continued to make us angry throughout the class,” Rees recalled. “He told us that half of us were here for the wrong reasons. He told us that 98 percent of us would never exercise again once we left here.”
Rees said that Martin’s style could be blunt and humorous by turns, but that the message underlying the instructor’s words was always clear. Martin, Rees said, wanted his students to search within themselves for the kind of personal conviction that makes law enforcement not just a job or career but a true calling. Although the class Martin taught at NILEA dealt with the jurisdictional aspects of police work, Rees said his instructor shared wisdom that reached far beyond the parameters of that class.
“Gary was supposed to come back and teach the second block of our class,” Rees said. “I can only imagine what that second block would have entailed, but I know it would have been memorable.”
After the ceremonies, Martin’s son, Sgt. Greg Martin of the Gary Police Department, said his father would have enjoyed the tribute given him by his friends, students and colleagues.
“He would have thought it was great,” Greg Martin said. “He really loved the academy, and he loved teaching students. I think he liked having an audience, somebody to laugh at his jokes.”
Amid the fond recollections of Martin, speakers at the NILEA ceremony also took time to reflect on the nature of police work and the often difficult and thankless tasks that face the academy’s newest graduates. FBI Agent Mark Becker of the Bureau’s Merrillville office, who gave the keynote address, warned the young officers that they would be asked to make split-second decisions and place themselves in harm’s way to ensure the safety of people they might never meet and who might not say “thank you” if they did.
“And if you did meet some of them, you probably wouldn’t like them very much,” Becker joked. He told the officers that the law enforcement community, despite its various divisions and jurisdictions, is like a large, supportive family, one upon which individual members can rely in a time of need.
“Like all families, sometimes we fight amongst ourselves,” Becker said. “The city cops wonder what the sheriff is doing here in town, and you both wonder what the state boys are up to. But you all become united when you cross paths with the feds. Nobody likes the feds. We are, after all, just here for the glory.”
On a more serious note, Becker said that the events of Sept. 11, 2001 marked a turning point for the FBI, which has since turned its focus more toward intelligence gathering and security issues. This adjustment in mission, Becker said, means that some criminal cases formerly handled by the Bureau now will require more local and state police involvement.
In addition to the Gary L. Martin Mental Attitude Award, NILEA officials also recognized the top students in the following categories: in criminal law, with a 99 percent test score, Brian Ray of the New Chicago Police Department; in overall academic achievement, with a 97.20 percentage, Tracy Chestnut of the Valparaiso Police Department; and in firearms training, with total scores of 238, 240, and 240 out of 240 possible, Felipe Fontanez of the Gary P.D.
Det. Shawn Jones of the Gary P.D., one of NILEA’s firearms instructors, personally contributed a cash award to go along with the Top Gun firearms award, and Rev. James Huddleston, who is a chaplain for LCSD, contributed a cash award to go along with the academic achievement award. Also, NILEA’s board president, Ed Lloyd, chief of the Valparaiso University Police Department, awarded Huddleston a special recognition award for his contributions and service to the academy.
Other NILEA graduates included: Thomas Kidd, Cedar Lake P.D.; Joseph Gallagher, Glenn Mayes, Stephen Otten, Jr., Dontreal Walters, Sr., Angel Lozano, Justin Sawicki, and Bynum Jones, Gary P.D.; Steven McGraw, Hebron P.D.; Luke Zuzich, Nathaniel Dillahunty, and Rebecca Machusek, Merrillville P.D.; Eric Goetz and Brian Chelich, Portage P.D.; Kevin Van Kley, Porter County Sheriff’s Department; Damian Murks, Schererville P.D.; and Victor Santiago, VU P.D.