WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Officer Martin Curley of the Boston College (MA) Police Department as its Officer of the Month for August 2009.
Like all other law enforcement professionals, campus police officers are trained to handle every type of emergency situation. Each day of the year, campus police respond to emergency calls, enforce traffic laws on campus roads, and train collegiate staff and students on crime prevention and safety. When Boston College Police Officer Martin Curley covered a shift for a fellow officer one day last fall, he had no idea that one call for service would put his own life in danger.
On October 20, 2008, the Boston College Police Department received an emergency call from contract workers who had been cleaning steam pipes near the Merkert Chemistry Center at the college's Chestnut Hill campus. Two workers stationed at the bottom of a manhole were using liquid nitrogen to clean the pipes. Although nitrogen is nontoxic and inert, it can asphyxiate an individual by displacing the oxygen in the air to levels below what is required to support life. Inhalation of nitrogen in excessive amounts can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness and even death.
After working on the pipes for some time, the two workers suddenly fell unconscious. Desperate, a third worker at the site attempted to rescue his co-workers but knew he could best help them by leaving the tunnel and going for help.
When Officer Curley and fellow officers arrived on the scene, only one of the unconscious workers was visible from the ground level of the manhole. The officers set up a small fan and secured a tripod to lower someone into the hole.
Officer Curley immediately knew that he would be the logical choice for going down into the manhole and carrying out the rescue. He not only was the most physically compact officer on the scene, but he also possessed the physical strength needed to carry up the trapped workers. Using nothing but basic oxygen they had in their police cruisers, the officers hooked Officer Curley into safety equipment and lowered him into the hole. The fumes from the liquid nitrogen had become so bad that even onlookers were complaining about its effects.
By the time Officer Curley had brought the first victim to the surface, members from the Fire Department had arrived. They gave Officer Curley an air-pack to better protect him from the nitrogen. Although Officer Curley was already feeling the effects from the fumes, he decided to continue using the improvised breathing device and save the air-pack for the second victim. Once he brought the second man to the top, all three men were rushed to the hospital. Officer Curley was treated and released.
Referring to Officer Curley and the other officers who participated in the rescue, Chief Robert Morse of the Boston College Police Department said, "These men are family men as well. What they did was heroic." Following the incident, Chief Morse wrote commendation letters for all of the officers involved, and he nominated Officer Curley for an award from the Massachusetts Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. For his extraordinary act of bravery, Officer Curley also was awarded the first-ever Thomas E. Devlin Jr. Officer of the Year Award, presented by the New England Coalition of Public Safety.
Officer Curley has been a member of the Boston College Police Department for three years. A member of the Special Response Team, he is a Rape Aggression Defense Instructor and a 911 Physical Fitness Instructor Trainer.
Located in the nation's capital, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America's law enforcement officers. The NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program began in September 1996 and recognizes federal, state and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
Officer Curley, along with the other Officers of the Month for 2009, will be honored at a special awards luncheon in Washington, DC, in May 2010 during National Police Week. In addition, their stories of heroism and service will be featured in the Memorial Fund's 2011 calendar.