Home > Uncategorized > Mark Martinez Embarks on new chapter in his law enforcement career

Mark Martinez Embarks on new chapter in his law enforcement career

Mark Martinez embarks on new chapter in his law enforcement career

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally appeared in El Perico


Former Omaha Police Department deputy chief Mark Martinez doesn’t make a big deal about it, but he’s part of a long family legacy in law enforcement. He’s added another historic chapter to it in his new post as U.S. Marshal.

He made history as the first Latino captain and deputy chief with the OPD. Now he’s the first Latino to be the U.S. Marshal of the Nebraska District, where he oversees two dozen marshals and a half-dozen administrators. The modest Martinez is aware what his ground-breaking appointment means.

“I just consider it a new challenge,” said the Omaha native. “Certainly I’m blessed, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s an opportunity to continue public service and to have a hand in law enforcement.”

He’s continuing the tradition of public service his father, Al Martinez Sr., a retired OPD cop, began and that Mark, an uncle, two brothers and several cousins have followed. “It’s a neat thing to think about how quite a few of us ended up in law enforcement,” he said. “We’re proud of our accomplishments and how we have served. My father was always community-oriented, civic-minded, so I think I had an idea I wanted to be a public servant. You’re helping solve problems and making things better. That attracted me to it.”

Martinez’s own community focus has found expression leading the local Latino Peace Officers Association and serving on the Omaha School Board. His U.S. Marshals appointment required he give up his seat on the board.

He went to Washington D.C. in January to be sworn in, culminating a long approval process that reached the desk of President Barack Obama. In February a second swearing-in occurred at the Hruska federal courthouse in downtown Omaha.

In March 2009, Martinez retired after 25 years with the OPD. The South High graduate rose up the ranks — from street officer to sergeant to lieutenant to captain to deputy chief. The Goodrich scholar prepared himself for advancement by earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where be became an adjunct faculty member in criminal justice.

After leaving the force he wasn’t sure what he would do next.

“I hadn’t really thought about continuing in law enforcement. I mean, I always knew that was a possibility but I wasn’t focused narrowly on just wanting to do law enforcement. There were other options out there,” he said.

He worked the security detail of Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle, putting him under the command of his brother, and former OPD cop, Al Martinez Jr.. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) approached Mark about the four-year U.S. Marshal post. When Martinez expressed interest Nelson recommended him to President Obama, who nominated him to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

A September White House press release announcing the nominations of Martinez and other U.S. Marshal candidates referred to their “courageous and selfless dedication to protecting their fellow Americans” and their “relentless…pursuit of justice.” In December Martinez won the approval of the Judiciary Committee. Nelson issued a statement, saying, “Mark Martinez has had a very impressive career in law enforcement which will help him carry out his new duties with professionalism and distinction.”

Martinez appreciates the extraordinary means that placed him in this position.

“Opportunity is the word that jumps out at me, because how many times do you get recommended by the senior senator of your party and then appointed by the President of the United States with the blessing of the Senate Judiciary Committee?”

Besides the prestige, he said “what’s equally attractive” is learning ‘the federal side of things.” That entails much study for the “eager-to-learn” Martinez. “I like challenges, but coming to a new organization is an adjustment, and maybe a little bit uncomfortable sometimes. It’s not a feeling I’ve had for quite a while — that unfamiliarity.”

He attended a three-day orientation in D.C. and anticipates a week-long training in the fall. He acknowledges there are many aspects of the work that can only be learned on the job. He counts himself lucky to have veteran staff around him.

“I really depend on my assistant, Chief Karen Thomas, to teach me about the day to day workings of the U.S. Marshals Service. I remind myself there’s so much I’ve learned in four months. It’s really meaningful to learn about the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the federal courts and federal agencies.”

The Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency, tracing its start back to 1789, when the first Congress created it. Martinez said “it’s awesome” being part of a lineage of service that goes back so far. The USMS is closely aligned with the nation’s courts.

“We have numerous responsibilities,” said Martinez. “First and foremost, we guard and protect the federal judicial process at the federal courthouses in Omaha, Lincoln and North Platte. We also protect the court family, including the federal judges and magistrates, the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We guard prisoners, defense attorneys, and anybody and everybody within that court family. We transport prisoners to and from court locally and longer distances.

“We also search out fugitives on federal warrants through a task force made up of local law enforcement and ourselves. We’re involved with the Witness Protection Program. We serve civil process papers and we do asset forfeiture.”

When he permits himself, Martinez marvels at how far he’s come. He’s quick to credit role models who inspired him.

“There’s plenty of people, like my father and Jim Ramirez at UNO, that pioneered not only for themselves but for others, to set an example and say, ‘Hey, you can do it — it takes a little work, but it can be done.'”

This family man — he and wife Cyndi have four children —  is keen to have others follow him, too. He’s aware how much his success mean to the Hispanic/Latino community. “There’s a lot of people who have written me notes and made phone calls and given me hand shakes to say, ‘We’re proud of you, keep up the good work.’ That’s gratifying,” he said.

His alma mater, UNO, recently honored him for his achievements.

He no longer directly serves the southeast precinct he grew up in and policed in and where, he said, “my heart is,” but he remains a man of his people. He hopes law enforcement and the community continue working proactively together.

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