By Jordan Attebury and Jeffrey K. Lyles
Gazette Staff Writers
Thursday, July 30, 2009
It's out with the old badge and in with the new at the Greenbelt Police Department.
Officer George Mathews, a 23-year department veteran, said he will miss his position after his retirement as the department's crime prevention and public information officer.
Mathews's last day will be Saturday, and he will turn over responsibility for handling the department's crime prevention and community relations efforts, as well as news information and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program at city schools, to his replacement, Officer Kelly Lawson.
Mathews started as a dispatcher at Hyattsville's police department in 1979 before becoming an officer. He stayed there for seven years before joining Greenbelt, after he befriended some Greenbelt officers in the police academy.
In 2004, Mathews joined the Prince George's County Deferred Retirement Option Plan, which allows officers to retire and accumulate a lump sum of money for retirement, up to a maximum of 85 percent of the employee's average final salary, according to a county Web site. The plan can be used by officers who are at least 55 years old, or who have between 20 and 30 years of service. After 30 years, the officers are forced to retire.
Besides speaking at organizations, clubs and neighborhood watch groups, Mathews was responsible for interacting with the public in events such as the Labor Day Festival and Christmas Bazaar booths.
"It's a good opportunity to go out and meet people you don't know and strengthen the ties with the people you already know," said Mathews, 51, of Odenton. "I made a lot of friends for life. . . . It's hard to believe that it's gone by so quickly."
Mathews said some of the more challenging aspects of the job were dealing with cases that received national coverage, such as the 1993 "crossbow rapist," who attacked women in the county, including Greenbelt, and the 2002 sniper shootings throughout the region.
Still, Mathews said, the rewards outweighed the challenges, as his favorite part of the job was working with children, whether at schools or leading tours of the police station for area Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts.
"More than anything, I'll miss the people and the camaraderie inside the police department. I don't think I'll ever do anything with that teamwork aspect," he said. "There's a unique fraternity dealing with police officers."
Lt. Carl Schinner, who worked with Mathews for 23 years, said that he was a great employee and a department mainstay.
"He's done wonders for our public relations throughout the entire city," he said.
Lawson, 29, said she is excited about following in Mathews's footsteps.
"The biggest thing I want to get across to people is don't be afraid to call the police," she said. "If we don't receive the phone call, we don't know and can't do anything about it."
Lawson has been with the department since April 2003.
Mathews said he is looking forward to spending more time with his daughters -- Hanna, 9, and Taylor, 10 -- and his wife, Tracy.
"My girls will miss the police car," he said. "My 9-year-old is already upset at me that I won't have a police cruiser anymore. I told them the trade-off is I'll be able to spend more time with them. I don't know if it works for them, but it will for me."