After 35 years of police work, the Oklahoma City Police Department's “Master Yoda” of teaching crime prevention techniques is retiring.
Master Sgt. Charles Epperly, 58, community relations officer in the 141-square-mile Hefner Division that stretches across most of north and northwest Oklahoma City, will step down May 31.
He is credited with training hundreds, possibly thousands, of neighborhood crime patrol volunteers since being named the Hefner Division's first community relations officer in 1990.
Epperly trained another veteran Oklahoma City community relations officer, Master Sgt. Michael Loruse, of the Will Rogers Division in central Oklahoma City.
“He was my mentor,” said Loruse, who has been a police community relations officer for 11 years.
“I had spent 21 years in patrol and had very little preparation for this. Charlie took the time to show me the programs and how he works with neighborhoods and businesses.”
Epperly has proved such a valuable resource over the years, Loruse said, that “I nicknamed him ‘Master Yoda' of police community relations. It's out of total respect and he knows it.”
Epperly, who estimates there are two dozen crime patrols and about 70 neighborhood watch groups in the Hefner Division, said credit should go not to himself but to the neighborhood officers and volunteers.
“These people have a pretty thankless job,” Epperly said.
“I get paid to do this. These board members, the volunteers — they keep things moving, and they do it for no financial reward. They do it to see that they have a better neighborhood.”
Epperly, who was a patrolman for 12 years before taking his present job, said he is a liaison between the police department and neighborhoods, businesses and social and civic groups.
Awareness is trend
Epperly said he sees a trend of people becoming more aware of how to lessen the chance of becoming a crime victim, and of heightened awareness of crimes.
“People see crime reported on television and in the newspaper. And in this day of social media, neighborhoods will have an incident, and it is quickly — I mean quickly — known.