GROTON — Mark Miller is a man of few words, even after learning he had been nominated for this year’s Extraordinary Service Award given by Nashoba Publishing in recognition of personnel whose service to their communities is “extraordinary and above and beyond the call of duty.”
“I’m kind of the one who likes to stay in the shadows,” said Miller, an audio-visual technician at Westford Academy. “I like to avoid the spotlight. But I’m certainly grateful to Chief Mulhern for thinking of me for this award. I feel honored to have him name me for it.”
Miller, however, will be obliged to emerge from the shadows when the Extraordinary Service Awards are given at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley this week.
“In the seven years that I have been chief, Sgt. Miller has accepted his assignments without complaint and performed them in a very professional manner,” commented Robert Mulhern, the town’s chief of police. “He never complains or asks if he could be assigned to another post; he just goes about his business and the supervisor on duty can be assured the job will be done right.”
“I have received compliments from citizens, members of town government and most importantly from my full-time officers, about the dedicated and professional performance of Sergeant Miller at all his assignments,” continued Mulhern. “It has been a pleasure serving with this outstanding officer and gentlemen. He has served the community of Groton for over 24 years without compensation or fanfare, a truly dedicated public safety officer. The community of Groton has been well-served by this quiet, unassuming officer and we thank him today and hope that he can continue to serve. It is my distinct pleasure to recommend Sergeant Mark Miller for this award.”
Although Miller, 45, was raised in Groton and currently calls the town of Westford his home, he has continued to serve Groton as a police auxiliary since July 1983. Promoted to sergeant in 1997, he has worked in a number of capacities, helping out the Police Department whenever called upon to do so.
“He has each year worked doing traffic duty on Halloween night, the Memorial day parade, Grotonfest and the annual tree lighting ceremony on the common,” said Mulhern. “He has hundreds of hours on normal patrol assisting at accident scenes and assisting motorists who have broken down on Groton roadways. Sergeant Miller can be counted on to come out during storms and assist the police officers and Fire Department with traffic. Sergeant Miller will assist at other public events such as the firemen’s muster, walking and speaking with citizens, true community policing. He is always professional and dedicated to his office. Sergeant Miller is a quiet and unassuming volunteer who because of this normally goes unnoticed.”
“Being a police officer wasn’t really something I’d thought of doing,” admitted Miller, who studied public communications at Mount Wachusett Community College. “Initially I was with the Ambulance Service, where we often worked hand-in-hand with the Police Department when we responded to emergency calls together. My friend and I took the EMT course together and I joined the Groton Ambulance Service in 1979 but I think my friend made the jump as an auxiliary police officer first and I may have followed.”
“The auxiliary officer is becoming more and more difficult to find these days,” commented Mulhern. “People are busy and many families are two-income families. Asking someone to volunteer time — time they could spend with friends and family — to take on these assignments is asking a lot. Add to this the liability concerns, insurance issues and training required, tends to reduce the number of auxiliary groups let alone members. The duties they are asked to perform are not usually the glamour jobs, rather the more tedious but important ones. Standing in the cold, the rain, the sun doing traffic or crosswalk duty is the standard fare.”
“I don’t have as much responsibility as a regular police officer,” said Miller of his responsibilities. “I don’t have arresting powers for instance. Technically, an auxiliary police officer is more or less an observer. I take directions from my superior officers should there be anything going on, but if I see anything I have to report it rather than acting on my own.
“We had many more people on the force at the time I first joined,” Miller said. “As an auxiliary police officer, I was just sort of an extra set of eyes and ears for the department. I’ve stuck with the force over the years because I still enjoy the work. Some of the faces change, obviously the town is still growing, but I still see a lot of old faces around town too. Being part of the force helps me keep in touch with friends and neighbors I used to know when I lived in town.”
Having taken basic training as a police officer and maintained his CPR first-responder certification, Miller said he was prepared to spend more time serving as an auxiliary police officer in Groton, except that life has become more hectic lately. Which does not mean he was not prepared to answer any call for help when it comes in.
“Just knowing that I may be doing something good to help someone out in a crisis is enough of a reward for being a member of the Police Department,” said Miller of his years of service. “It feels good to know that I may have helped a victim or a patient in a personal crisis get through a tough situation, especially if it happens in the town I grew up in.”