The Historian's Spotlight - NA, It's A Family Thing

Many times law enforcement becomes a family tradition, with sons and daughters following in the footsteps of a parent, who had followed in the footsteps of one of their parents. This is one of those stories, not only is it about three generations of police officers; it is about a grandfather and grandson who are both graduates of the National Academy.

The legacy begins with Rossa E. Couture, known to his family as “Papa,” born in the Industrial/Mill town of Fall River, Massachusetts on March 12, 1912. Rossa’s father, Edmund J. Couture, was a carpenter and owned an auto repair/paint shop.  His mother, Louise Gurnett Couture was a homemaker. According to family members, Rossa chose to become a Police Officer as it was one the few jobs available at the end of the Great Depression.  At the age of Twenty-Five, on September 7th, 1937, Rossa Couture became a sworn officer with the Fall River Police Department in the role of Detective.

Eleven months after starting his law enforcement career, Rossa was off to Washington DC, to be a member of the 9th session of, what was then known as, the National Police Academy. An excerpt from the August 27, 1938 edition of the Fall River Herald News read:

Patrolman Rossa E. Couture, 26, of 4 Bardsley Street, one of the younger members of the local Department, who is stationed at the Central Division, being unassigned, will leave Saturday for Washington, DC where he will attend the Federal Bureau of Investigation Police Academy for a three month period.

 While at the school he will receive instruction from nationally known teachers who are under the direct supervision of J. Edgar Hoover, the country’s Number 1 G-Man.

Mr. Couture is the second young man to attend from New England, and he is the first and only man to attend from the local department. His untiring efforts and own merits have made it possible for him to be accepted by Mr. Hoover for the special training, and he is relinquishing his annual furlough and supplying the necessary funds for his studies in his desire to gain the necessary training that is expected to prove invaluable to the public which he serves.

Rossa returned from the Academy and continued to serve the Fall River community until 1942, at which time he left the local department to become a Naval Intelligence Officer. Upon returning from the Navy, Rossa served as a member of the Fall River Police Commission from 1950 to 1956. In addition to the service to his community and his country, Rossa was a dedicated fisherman who held several fishing records in New England and was known throughout the region as a skilled boatman.

In 2002, Mark Pfetzer, grandson of Rossa, began his law enforcement career following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps; thus beginning his journey towards attending the National Academy.

Mark was born in Middletown, Rhode Island, a community situated next to Newport, Rhode Island. Mark’s father, Kenneth Pfetzer, served as a police officer for Jamestown Police Department in Jamestown, Rhode Island, from 1973 until his retirement in 1992.  His mother, Christine Pfetzer, owned and operated a business from their home.  East Bay Claims was an automobile appraisal company that appraised vehicle damages for insurance companies.

Mark states that “as a young boy I always looked up to my father and wanted to be in law enforcement.” The other force guiding Mark toward a career in law enforcement was his Grandfather, Rossa Couture. After retiring from law enforcement, Rossa, worked part-time for his daughter, Christine. Living as next-door neighbors, this was a fortunate situation for Rossa as he was close to work and able to spend time and share stories with his grandson.

Mark began his law enforcement career as a patrol officer with the Mason, Ohio Police Department. After two years in Mason, Ohio, Mark moved to Aztec, New Mexico and began work for the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, where he continues to work today.  During his tenure with the Sheriff’s Office he has held positions as Deputy, Field Training Officer, SWAT Officer, Patrol Sergeant, Administrative Lieutenant, and currently serves as one of three Patrol Lieutenants.

Continuing to foster knowledge, Mark obtained an Associate’s Degree in the Science of Mathematics from San Juan College in Farmington, New Mexico, and will continue his studies this fall with Franklin University, pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Risk Management.

In early 2016, Mark was invited to attend National Academy Session 266 from October through December. Like his grandfather had done two hundred fifty –seven sessions and seventy-nine years earlier, he was off to attend the National Academy.

As is the case with many of us who have lived the Academy experience, Mark found the most difficult part to be the time spent away from his wife Robyn and daughters Khaleel (who turned 18 while he was away) and Kelyn who is 16. He is grateful for the support that he received form Robyn who maintained the daily duties of keeping the house, kids and pets going while he was away taking classes, attending events and meeting new people.

He enjoyed most of his classes and particularly the discussions that arose during class. Truly, we all grow from sharing experiences with peers and learning the various ways situations/issues are handled. Mark feels that the knowledge gained in his leadership class will help him become a better leader and positive role model. And, that what he learned in the legal and writing sessions, will assist him in training others on those aspects that impact their jobs within the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.

Mark commented that what he had been told him prior to attending the Academy had been confirmed; the network you establish at the NA will be one of the most powerful tools you have to do your job. When faced with a problem or issue, where the answer isn’t readily apparent, all you need to do is pick up the phone or send an email to a fellow Associate for guidance and help.

For those who are waiting to attend, Mark offers the following advice:

Spend as much time as you can immersed in the environment and take full advantage of the experience. Enjoy your time-off on weekends to see the local sights, and to get better acquainted with your session-mates. During class and end enrichment sessions be sure to extract something from everything that you attend.