CANTON OH Dec 5 2016 Frank Meeker joined the Canton Police Department Auxiliary in 1968.
Even today, at age 70 and the group's longest serving member at 48 years, the Nimishillen Township man is so dedicated to being an auxiliary police officer, he has no plans to step down anytime soon.
"I'll be here until I'm crawling on the ground," he said.
"We want him to stay with us as long as he can," said the auxiliary's commander, Mel Bieyl.
On Saturday at its annual holiday party at the city's Garden Center in Stadium Park, the Canton Police Department Auxiliary recognized him for his 48 years of service, surprising him as he walked in the door. Mayor Thomas Bernabei and City Safety Director Andrea Perry appeared briefly to thank him. Many of the auxiliary's 25 members and spouses were in attendance.
Bieyl recalled that he said, " 'At this time, we wanted to recognize Frank Meeker for his years of service.' He was shocked."
As he ate fried chicken, Meeker quipped that his immediate thought when entering was "where's the chow?"
Auxiliary Capt. Joe Burnosky, who joined in 1975, said, "He was always fun. He always liked to talk. ... He's got a lot of good dedication to the city. He enjoyed the work like I did. He's been an asset to the city."
Meeker, a former part-time East Canton police officer, former Ohio National Guardsman and former Nimishillen Township firefighter, said he joined the auxiliary because of its "good quality people." Over his career, he has worked as a freight driver and Canton Street Department worker. He said he's the chaplain for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 73 in Alliance.
Bieyl recalled that when he joined the auxiliary in 1982, Meeker trained him.
Meeker has served the auxiliary as captain, but recently he's eased into a role as the group's chaplain. He still helps direct traffic like for Light Up Downtown last week.
Bieyl said the auxiliary, which was founded around 1963, is made up of volunteers, who are unpaid except for the occasional security job. They get to wear police uniforms. They get to drive the cruisers. They're assigned radios. They often provide a security presence and direct traffic at public events such as races, games, parades, Light Up Downtown, Pro Football Hall of Fame events.
However, they are not sworn police officers. They have no arrest powers. They're not armed. They don't have to complete police academy training. They don't respond to 911 calls.
But auxiliary officers have to pass a background check. They learn how to use mace and a police baton. They go through a basic training course. The police department regularly asks auxiliary officers to volunteer for different jobs.
They can give out parking tickets. And they're often the regular police's eyes on the ground. They'll often check homes where the occupants are on vacation to ensure they haven't been broken into. They'll speak at schools. Occasionally, an auxiliary officer will become a sworn police officer.
Bieyl said the auxiliary is looking for new members, age 21 or older, and encouraged people to check out the group's Facebook page.