The Salem Police Department’s Officer of the Year for 2018 is known for his ability to stay calm and maintain order even when everything around him is in a chaotic state.
Joe Holder, a Senior Police Officer from Roxboro, North Carolina, found himself in the middle of two very different life or death situations in 2018. His professional, focused and clear-headed responses to both instances led his fellow officers in Salem to select him for this annual honor.
“I try to hold myself and my peers to a higher standard each day,” says Holder. “I have a very difficult time accepting compliments and commendations, so I have a hard time believing that I deserve this honor for what I did.”
The 26-year-old is in his fourth year of service with the Salem Police Department. He arrived in town after serving his country for four years in the United States Marine Corps. Holder joined the Marines shortly after graduating from Danville’s Westover Christian Academy.
“We see good people at their worst moment and often the stuff we see is enough to make you want to go home and not come back,” he says. “But this is why we need people who have the fortitude necessary to stick it out and respond to these serious calls that we have each and every day.”
The specific incidents that earned the admiration of his peers involved an unresponsive one-month-old infant and an adult male with a self-inflicted laceration. The emergency calls that sent Holder to these events were unrelated, but in each case his response was consistently professional.
“My fellow officers and I did what any police officer or citizen should do, but you have to stay calm and have a good head on your shoulders to handle these types of situations,” he says. “Domestic disputes are often the most dangerous calls we respond to, but even knowing that, I do not think we were ready for what we walked into that day.”
The day Holder is referring to took place on a Sunday this past November when he was able secure a crime scene and save a man’s life by utilizing the first-aid techniques he acquired from attending a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center session earlier in his career.
“They actually give you your own advanced first-aid kit and show you how to effectively use the lifesaving measures,” he says. “I was thankful to not only have the opportunity to attend the training, but glad I had that equipment with me during the incident.”
“Senior Police Officer Holder is a hardworking, driven officer, who remains calm during stressful situations while performing his duties,” says Salem Police Major, Derek Weeks. “He is very deserving of this award.”
Holder says he never planned to be a police officer, but now realizes that a number of the folks he had interactions with while growing-up just across the state line in Roxboro had a positive influence on his path as an adult. One of his little league coaches is the Sheriff of Person County, North Carolina and in high school he took martial arts classes with State Troopers and Deputies.
“I played for Sheriff Dewey Jones and later worked out with these other guys in kick boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes,” says Holder. “They humanized the badge for me and I developed great respect for them for being good human beings.”
Martial arts, the Marines and now police work have all fit well with Holder’s disciplined, goal-oriented personality. Since arriving in Salem, he also has learned the value of being able to relate to people from all walks of life.
“When you can show up at the scene, assess people and know what can set someone off or calm them down, it is critical,” says Holder. “We have a lot of boxes to check and often they have to be checked in a few seconds, so having a goal-oriented mindset and staying on an even keel is what gets the officers and other people out of these instances alive.”
Holder will be formally honored by the Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce on January 11.
“It has been a pleasure to see Joe Holder develop into his role as a police officer for the City of Salem,” says Salem Police Chief, Mike Crawley. “He is extremely motivated to do a good job and always willing to do whatever is asked of him. Officer Holder has a great future ahead of him.”