Beyond the line of duty

Bucks County officer honored as Police Officer of the Year

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Officer Scott Merchiore thought he was giving a lengthy presentation on school safety. But when he entered Michael’s Restaurant in Bensalem on June 27, he was met with the sight of his parents, wife and two daughters raising their phones to record his reaction. Though his safety presentation was surely informative, it would have to wait. In a surprise ceremony, Merchiore was honored as the Bensalem Rotary Club’s Police Officer of the Year for consistently going above and beyond his required duties.

A true hero: Officer Scott Merchiore stands with his parents, Phyllis and Nick, daughters Kayla and Samantha, and wife Tara after receiving the Bensalem Rotary Club’s Police Officer of the Year Award. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

Previously with the Philadelphia Police Department for five years, Merchiore joined the Bensalem Police Department on May 20, 2002, and has been making an impact on the community ever since. The department’s director, Fred Harran, explained how the Rotary Club’s mantra is “service above self,” and Merchiore certainly embodies this.

Serving as the school resource officer for Bensalem High School, Merchiore dedicates more hours to the community than the average officer. According to Harran, in other districts, officers won’t put in extra time or effort unless they’re paid to do so. For Merchiore, this isn’t the case.

“He always knows what’s going on with the kids here,” Harran said. “He puts in the most time out of any officer.”

A large part of his extra community involvement is dedicated to the PAL program, the Police Athletic and Activities League. As the lead officer of the PAL Basketball Summer League, Merchiore is heavily involved in the training and inclusion of the 515 youths on the team. He assists in running the PAL Flag Football Tournament, and also participated in the PAL Winter Fun Program, which is geared toward kids with special needs. There are 818 kids involved in PAL, and not one dollar comes from taxpayer’s money, according to Harran.

Merchiore’s dedication to the community’s youth doesn’t stop there. A member of the PBA’s Scholarship Fund, he helps to raise money and select two local youths to each be awarded a $2,500 scholarship toward college.

As a YAP (Youth Advocate Program) Liaison Officer, Merchiore attends monthly meetings and assists students in completing community service hours. He is also heavily involved with emergency planning at local schools, coordinating and assisting with a number of lockdown drills throughout the year.

“If there’s a program youth-related in Bensalem Township, this man has touched it,” Harran said. “Children are better off because of him.”

As Harran presented Merchiore with his award, his wife Tara, daughters Kayla and Samantha, and parents Phyllis and Nick looked on with pride. After the Rotary Club award, Merchiore was presented with an additional award from the House of Representatives for his service.

“They’re second to none,” Mayor DiGirolamo said of the Bensalem Police Department. “We’re proud of them every day.”

Still in shock over the surprise and honor, Merchiore gave a brief but heartfelt thank you speech.

“It’s a love of people,” he said. “Not a paycheck.” ••