LOCAL FOLKS: After 34 years, Oxford police chief to hang up his badge

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Mike Martin has saved lives, nabbed robbers and pushed papers, among other duties, in 34 years of firefighting and police work.
Martin, chief of the Oxford Police Department, will retire Jan. 31 after a career that began with the old University of Mississippi Fire Department. The 52-year-old lifelong Oxonian says as much as he has loved police work, he’ll enjoy a slower pace.
“I knew the one thing I wanted to do was to slow down,” he said. “This is a very demanding job, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
Martin and his colleague Bob Jones were recognized as Mississippi Police Officers of the Year for 1991-92 for a rescue that started when they were seeking a suspect and instead encountered a mobile home fire.
“A man screamed that his wife was in there and that she was pregnant,” Martin said. “Bob was strong as an ox, and he snatched that door straight off the hinges. We were able to find her and get her out.”
While command positions have proven good for his career, Martin said he has missed the adrenaline rushes inherent in being a street cop ever since he became assistant chief in 2000.
“I go to meetings and shake hands and talk to folks,” he said. “I don’t get to do the fun police work anymore.”
Tragic memories have come along, too. Martin commanded the response to a 2009 shooting and hostage situation that left one man dead and his family traumatized. He’s responded to notorious homicides and fatal wrecks that branded themselves into the community’s consciousness.
The rescues, captures and other successes more than outweigh the downsides, he said. One obvious high point was the 2008 Presidential Debate at the University of Mississippi, with its one-of-a-kind security effort.
“A lot of preplanning went into it, but the good thing is that we got the opportunity to work with the Secret Service, DEA, ATF, FBI, MBI, Highway Patrol and even Game and Fish (Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks) personnel,” Martin said. “I found that anything I needed – we didn’t have an explosives-detecting dog, for instance – was just a phone call away.
“After the debate, we got really good comments from people and agencies all across the country.”
Martin’s final ambition as chief is to get his Oxford Police Department accredited.
“Record keeping, evidence, policy and procedures – everything you do in law enforcement – need to be the best they can possibly be,” he said. “Going through the accreditation process helps you be a really good law enforcement agency.”
As for that low-pressure retirement he was looking for, Martin – husband of Jeannette and father of Lisa – found it. In addition to touring the West with Jeannette on their Harley, the two-wheeler enthusiast plans to sell and repair bikes at Oxford Bicycle Co.
“It’s actually a good fit,” Martin said. “It’ll be fun to be a peon for a change.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com