Rhinier retires from Regional Police

By on July 6, 2016
Sergeant Rick Rhinier is retiring from the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police force this month. Photo by Laura Knowles.

Sergeant Rick Rhinier is retiring from the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police force this month. Photo by Laura Knowles.

Will continue to serve in Manheim Borough

After 25 years with the Warwick Township Police, and then the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department, Sgt. Rick Rhinier is retiring.

It will be official in mid-July, when he hangs up his NLCRPD uniform and returns his police vehicle. But he won’t be going far.

Rhinier is all set to be an officer for the Manheim Borough Police Department. He’s looking forward to working in a close-knit, small town setting.

“I have always had a strong sense of community. I coached baseball, wrestling, Little League. I got to know people and that’s what I will be doing in Manheim,” says Rhinier, 50, who has been a sergeant for 16 years and also serves as constable for Warwick Township.

In his new position, Rhinier looks forward to being out in the community more. He admits that working behind a desk and handling paperwork aren’t what he likes most. He likes being a part of the action and getting to know the people he serves.

Detective Eric Zimmerman of NLCRPD has worked with Rhinier for 25 years. The two went to Ephrata High School together and also served in the U.S. Marines. In fact, it was Zimmerman who worked for Warwick Township Police first. Rhinier worked at Ephrata Township Police in his first police job. Then Zimmerman let Rhinier know there was an opening at Warwick, and Rhinier applied and got the position as an officer.

One of the things Zimmerman notes is that Rhinier has a steel-trap memory. He recalls places, people and things like few others can do. Ask him about a case from 1990 and he will know the date, the circumstances and, most of all, the people and their stories.

He cares about those people and has compassion for them. That’s part of what makes Rhinier a skilled negotiator, who is able to talk to scared five-year-olds, drunk 21-year-olds, and confused 90-year-olds with a fair, reasonable tone that evokes trust. His voice is calm and reassuring to even the most stressed-out individuals.

“No matter who they are, everyone deserves to be treated the same no matter how many times they need us,” says Rhinier.

Rhinier doesn’t seek out attention. Far from it. He is most often behind the scenes when solving a crime, preferring to do the work rather than be interviewed about the case. To most, he is a silent force who is dedicated to protecting the community.

Rhinier graduated from Ephrata High School in 1985, then joined the Marines. While in the service, he saw the world, including Italy, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Spain and Austria. He couldn’t wait to get back home to Ephrata and Lititz. Although he grew up in Ephrata, he had close ties to Lititz, where his grandparents owned the Hilltop Motel.

His first job after the Marines was at Lancaster County Prison. Then he went to the Police Academy in Reading and worked with the Ephrata Township Police Department before joining Warwick Township. In his 25 years with Warwick and NLCRPD, he has known many families for generations, from grandparents to parents to their children.

He looks for ways to help the community he serves, like the time he set up an electronic sign warning residents that there had been burglaries in their neighborhood. Not only did the approach let residents know about the rash of home break-ins, but the thieves would surely think twice about committing a crime where there was a big flashing sign.

Rhinier has been fearless when seeking out the “bad guys,” and recalls when a late-1990s murder occurred in Brickerville when a Ukrainian immigrant killed a Russian man. Rhinier captured the killer near some greenhouses on Route 322. He has worked on other murder cases, including a Rothsville woman killed by a man she had tried to help, and a young woman murdered in Lititz.

One of the toughest parts of his job are the car accidents. He often knows the victims, sometimes teenagers, who are severely injured or die. As the father of three adult sons, he relates all too well to the anguish of parents and family members when tragedy strikes.

He is also deeply affected by the rise in heroin use that is sweeping the area and all across the United States. He notes that heroin use often results in robberies, burglaries and other crimes. He has seen young people who have died of overdoses.

“That’s one thing that people need to understand. We do have a very serious heroin problem right here in Warwick and Lititz,” he says.

Fellow officers like Zimmerman praise Rhinier for his level-headed, down-to-earth attitude. Detective Sergeant John Schofield of the Lititz Borough Police Department has worked with Rhinier for the past 24 years.

“He is by far the most motivated law enforcer that I have ever worked with,” says Schofield. “Most officers tend to slow down as the years go by, but Rick hasn’t skipped a beat since his rookie years.”

As Schofield adds, “I recall many times back when I was the only officer on duty in Lititz Borough at 3 a.m. and getting that urgent 911 call, and that feeling of relief hearing Rick’s voice over the radio telling me he’s on his way from the township to back me up. Those are the memories of Rick that I’ll always cherish and appreciate.”

Rhinier’s career as a Warwick officer hasn’t all been glorious. He rather sheepishly admits that his first day on the job with the Warwick Police was a disaster. It was his first day in the police cruiser when he decided to go after a speeding motorcyclist. He made a quick turn, hit the intersection too quickly and totaled the police car, landing it on an embankment. A newspaper article called it “First Day Jitters” for the rookie.

Schofield likes to remind Rhinier of the time he beat him in arm wrestling in front of his fellow officers, which forced Rhinier to have to do push-ups in uniform in Lititz Square.

“It was pretty funny,” recalls Schofield, quickly adding, “I have been proud to serve my entire career with Rick, and I’m truly going to miss him.”

Lucky for his family, including his wife Alesha, and his sons Dallas, Dillan and Dakota, as well as the officers and the community of Warwick, Lititz, Penn and Clay townships, he won’t be far away.

“Just down the road in Manheim,” says Rhinier. “I am looking forward to this next chapter.”

Laura Knowles is a freelance reporter and regular contributor to the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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