“Ithaca is gorges” or so goes the familiar slogan spotted on proud t-shirts across New York State.  Situated on the shores of Cayuga Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes, the gorges, snow covered hills, vineyards, and waterfalls of Ithaca make for a picture perfect postcard.  It has also been named one of the best colleges in the country, home to Cornell University and Ithaca College. It’s behind the walls of the Ivy League University where Officer Mike Meskill started his career in law enforcement in 2012.

The Trumansburg, NY native spent a lot of his teenage years doing ride along’s with deputy friends older than himself where his father Peter served as Tompkins County Sheriff for 12 years. He knew immediately what he wanted to do.  Although his mom would have preferred he be an accountant or a teacher.

“It may sound cliché to other police officers but I enjoy being the person in between the good people and the evil people.” He says matter-of-factly.

During his three years with the Cornell University Police Department he received the Sgt. Howard Traffic Safety award twice and a Tompkins County Stop DWI Award. In February 2015, he accepted the job of police officer with the City of Ithaca Police.  After a year of being with IPD, he was granted the opportunity of becoming a member of the SWAT team.   As a certified SWAT operator, his special skills and training were called into action last month after a tragic shooting of a UPS driver at a Walmart. Officers attempted to stop the suspect when he fled in his vehicle. A short chase ensued into the suspects driveway. The suspect ran from his car firing at the pursuing officers before running into his house.   The Ithaca Police Department SWAT team responded and a barricade was established around the residence.  Using armored personnel carriers and robots they were able to peacefully resolve the situation and the suspect surrendered after a lengthy period of time.

Just a typical day of work for Officer Meskill who primarily works the midnight shift, 11 PM to 7 AM.  Although most of his co-workers would tell you no one really knows what shift he is working because he is always around the PD, working overtime, going to court, training, or setting something up in the community. His niche in police work is enforcing the vehicle and traffic law. He enjoys interacting with people and also taking impaired drivers off the roadway.  His typical weeks can be broken up sometimes because of the additional training he receives from being on the SWAT team as well as departmental training.  “IPD is very progressive and keeps every officer trained on the latest tactics to keep us all safe,” he says “Our training unit is among the best.”

When asked what unique challenges and rewards come from working in law enforcement, Officer Meskill shared that the climate in law enforcement is difficult at times. Within the five years since he has been in his career he says it seems like the line between people who like the police and people who do not, is a lot clearer. There are people who drop stuff off to the PD daily to thank us for what we do and there are others in the community who will go out of their way to flick us off or yell profanities at us. However, he enjoys meeting new people, speaking to community members and bridging the gap between the community and the police.

My daily goal when I am at work is to speak with someone in the community and educate and inform them on what we really do.  The TV shows and movies spin policing in a very different way then what the job entails. The word intimidating comes up frequently when citizens speak about the police and it is a challenge sometimes to make members of the community understand I am here to protect them and make everyone safe.  I go out of my way to make conversation with people to let them know, we as police officers are real people with real feelings and care about everyone.

He ranks becoming a member of the SWAT team as one of his favorite achievements in his law enforcement career.  It’s something about the mental and physical strength that has to be combined in the worst and most important incidents that makes me love being a member of this unit. It can be so demanding, but when you get through it, it’s so rewarding.  Also, being recognized through Stop DWI for the enforcement effects I take to rid impaired people off the roadway is up there.  The amount of time and effort put into those cases is extreme and it is nice to have a group thank you for keeping the roadways safe.

Officer Meskill considers being hated for wanting to help as the most difficult part of being a law enforcement officer. Knowing that there are people out there who want to kill you because of the shirt you put on. If you wonder why officers yell sometimes or don’t let you do things in our presence, it’s because we are paranoid. Paranoid we won’t go home at the end of the night, paranoid we don’t get to see our loved ones.

The satisfaction of helping someone. Putting on the uniform and badge knowing I’m going to help someone today makes it all worth it.

The reality of a career in law enforcement can differ from typical expectations. The wear and tear of the career can take an effect on people. I don’t think our brains were set up to see as much trauma and tragedy as police, fire and EMS do.  Doing this job takes years off your life and unless you take care of yourself mentally and physically it will kill you. I think people can be naïve sometimes to the level and amount of bad we see.  The typical expectation is a kind person in blue and sometimes going from one level to the next in a matter of minutes can effect interactions.

He considers Lt. Jake Young and Eric Stickel to be some of his influences today. “Jake is always pushing you to make you better as a person and an officer. He sets the standards high and won’t stop pushing you until you get there.”

Eric trained me while at Cornell and I can’t say enough about his leadership and the friendship we have now. I know in a time of need or question, he will be there for me.

Justin Collins, the founder of The Badge of Honor Association ( BOHA) another major influence for Officer Meskill.  “He always has something up his sleeve and is a great motivator. Although I’ve only known Justin for a few years, he has taught me a lot and continues to drive me.”

In addition to his law enforcement duties as an Ithaca Police Officer, he is also the Chapter Manager of the Badge of Honor Association’s Tompkins County Chapter. A strictly volunteer position.

The Badge of Honor Association is a 501C(3) nonprofit organization that focuses on raising money for the families of law enforcement officers in the line of duty death.  BOHA also supports officers involved in critical or serious incidents while on duty.  We cover all law enforcement across the 24 counties of Western and Central New York.  2017 marks our 10th year anniversary.

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