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Somerville police officer and community serviceman honored as Hero of the Game

by Gordy Stillman / New Jersey Devils
Somerville Police Officer and U.S. Army veteran Tim Franks is dedicated to serving his community. Beyond helping people in his capacity as member of law enforcement, he volunteers with the Special Olympics coaches youth sports and helps serve meals at a local soup kitchen. Photo by Joe Marte

Soldier, coach, martial artist, Somerville Police Officer – Tim Franks is a man of many roles. A winner of multiple awards, including the Medal of Valor, Franks was celebrated as the New Jersey Devils’ Hero of the Game on December 19, as the hockey club dueled the Anaheim Ducks.

As a teenager, Franks recalls, he felt the call to serve. “I said, ‘boy, I’d love to be a police officer,’” Franks said. “They do nothing but help people, take bad people off the road, and help good people.” Franks found inspiration in his stepbrother, who served as a military police officer.

Before beginning his time with the Somerville Police Department, Franks served in the United States Army from 1984 to 1992. “I knew that to be a cop, I had to grow up a little bit,” Franks explained. A 17-year-old when he graduated from high school, Franks, now 48, recalls feeling that he needed to mature before he could pursue his dream of being a police officer. “I wanted to see the world before I got locked into a job that I couldn’t travel with,” Franks said.

Reaching the rank of specialist, Franks spent time at Fort Knox, in Kentucky, Fort Leonard Wood, in Missouri, and traveled to Germany where he was stationed at Nuremburg and Berlin at the end of the Cold War. “I got out of active duty, and the [Berlin] Wall came down a year later.”

After his time in Germany, Franks joined the Somerville police force in 1989 before the completion of his military service. For 25 years he served as a patrol officer with a few specializations, including bike patrols and teaching self-defense tactics to other officers. When it comes to self-defense courses, Franks channels his more than 30 years of martial arts training. “That’s a passion too, almost as much as being a cop,” Franks said. “And they go together, too.

For his service, Franks has received the Medal of Valor on four occasions; twice from his department and twice from the Somerset County 200 Club, a civic organization that supports law enforcement officers. “It represents a distinguishable act of selflessness and valor,” Franks said. To me, valor is nothing but doing what I’m taught to do.”

Franks has also received five awards for instances where he saved someone’s life. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done CPR. The ones that you do save, you remember.” Recently, Franks responded to an incident at a local Ford dealership where by the time he arrived, a defibrillator had already been used. He took over CPR until an ambulance arrived, and paramedics eventually were able to revive the patient. “He signed himself out of the emergency room seven days later.”

Outside of law enforcement, Franks is also highly involved in his community. For the past 25 years, he has volunteered with the Special Olympics and currently serves as his town’s organizer for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which supports the Special Olympics. “I organize the legs, the fundraising, the shirts, getting the guys together, all of that.” He also participates in the Police Unity Tour, which raises money for the Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. Over four days, Franks and other police officers bicycle more than 300 miles from the tri-state area down to the nation’s capital. Franks has already begun training for the next tour in May, which will be his third year participating.

Four times a year, Franks trains as a member of his town’s Emergency Response team. “Assault rifles, injuries, active shooters, all the stuff that you would need in this day and age,” Franks explained. “As sorry as that is to say.” Everyone on the emergency response team is a military veteran.

Earlier in the day, Franks was busy coaching his son in basketball. “I coach football for him and I’m his head basketball coach.”

Franks’ chief nominated him to be the New Jersey Devils’ hero of the game, an honor he said he appreciated, but does not look to receive. “I’m almost 50 years old, I really don’t need the accolades.” Franks said he tries to push supervisors to recognize and honor the younger, rising stars on the force, to further encourage the next generation of officers.

“I’ve been a Devils fan since they came over from Colorado,” Franks said. His all-time favorite player is Krzysztof Oliwa, the New Jersey Devils’ 1993 third round draft selection from Poland. On the current roster, Patrik Elias stands out. “I like how he plays…A true leader on the ice, which all policemen admire.”

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