At first sight, Josh Uhernik looks like he walked straight off of the cover of a body building magazine. Physically imposing, you might be inclined to attribute certain stereotypes to him and assume that his personality is gruff, unsociable or swaggering. Or that his only interest is in the gym. You would be very, very wrong.
Josh grew up in western Pennsylvania. He attended college in West Virginia receiving bachelor degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education. Yep, you read that correctly. Josh Uhernik was a special education teacher. The job was extremely rewarding, but his last teaching job was in a very bad neighborhood. He noticed that his students had a very difficult time readjusting to school after the weekend.
“I was seeing firsthand how crimes were affecting my students. I thought that there must be something more I can do for these kids.” That insight led Josh to decide that he could make a greater impact by becoming a police officer. In 2008, he was accepted into the police academy.
After working as an officer outside of the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Josh decided that he needed a change. He had always wanted to live in Colorado and moved straight to Rifle, sight unseen. After working in both Aspen and Silt, he jumped when the opportunity arose to work in the town where he resides with his wife and three kids.
“I’ve had family and neighbors who have been victims of crimes so I really wanted to be able to patrol where I live,” he explained. “It is very rewarding being able to interact and protect the community and be a role model for kids. It’s great to know that you are making a difference. Working with smaller agencies is more family-like.”
This dedication to kids and community began back in 2009 in Pennsylvania when he founded a junior police academy, Camp B.A.D.G.E. (https://www.facebook.com/CampBadge/). B.A.D.G.E. is an acronym for BRAVERY, ADAPTABILITY, DETERMINATION, GOOD PHYSICAL CONDITION and EDUCATION. The goal of the camp is to counter any bad publicity about police officers and create strong connections between officers and citizens. The camps, which have spread nationwide, focus on grades 3-9 which Josh explains is a great age to have some influence. Participants are taught the qualities which will make them good citizens or police officers.
The camp is held in two separate sessions, each one week long. The kids get uniforms donated by Under Armour, 511 Tactical and Relentless Defender. There are sessions of both physical fitness as well as classroom time. Topics range from gun safety and first aid to how to recognize dangerous situations. They often take field trips to the jail and gun range and have the opportunity to see helicopters and other police equipment. Graduates receive a certificate.
When Josh talks about Camp B.A.D.G.E. his entire face lights up. He gets a huge genuine smile and a twinkle in his eye. You can tell that this is a labor of love and a great source of pride. He is hoping that he will have sessions in both Silt and Rifle this year.
In his free time, he enjoys fishing, camping, working out and spending time with his family. It’s easy to see why he came to Rifle. His new family of Rifle police officers agree.
“Officer Uhernik comes to our team with a great deal of law enforcement training and experience. He has worked in law enforcement for over 11 years, beginning his career with agencies in Pennsylvania and most recently serving with the Silt Police Department where he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. We are very fortunate to have him on board,” stated Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein.
When you see Josh Uhernik patrolling our city, be sure to say hello. He would love to meet you. But you may not want to challenge him to arm wrestle!
Rifle Rapport is a periodic article featuring the people and projects of the City of Rifle. If you have suggestions for future articles, please contact City of Rifle Public