Former prosecutor now top cadet in Municipal Police Academy

By Eric Devlin
Montgomery County Community College Municipal Police Academy cadet Lt. Roderick Fancher was a former prosecutor in the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. He'll soon become a patrol officer for the Upper Merion Township Police Department. Photos by Eric Devlin

Montgomery County Community College Municipal Police Academy cadet Lt. Roderick Fancher was a former prosecutor in the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. He'll soon become a patrol officer for the Upper Merion Township Police Department. Photos by Eric Devlin

Montgomery County Community College Municipal Police Academy Cadet Lt. Roderick Fancher already knows a thing or two about crime fighting. He spent more than nine years working in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor.

The 35-year-old husband and father of two and Willow Grove native, realized police work was his true calling, though, and decided to trade life in the court room for a police badge. He’s already been hired by the Upper Merion Township Police Department as a patrol officer and was sworn in this past January. He’s scheduled to begin working there this summer after he completes the Academy and passes the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC) exam.

For Fancher, a 2006 Upper Moreland High School graduate, police work has been a passion that he has wanted to pursue since he was a junior at Franklin and Marshall College. He graduated as a philosophy major but knew a career in law enforcement was what he was truly meant to do with his life.

A call to serve

“Being in Boy Scouts and doing Eagle Scout projects, there’s a lot of community service involved,” said Fancher. “I was interested in working with the community and serving the public.”

After graduating college, Fancher applied to become a police officer in his hometown. At the height of the recession though, he can remember competing against more than 1,400 applicants.

“I remember the line wrapping all the way around the parking lot,” he said.

Cadet Lt. Roderick FancherWhile he made it far in the process, he wasn’t selected, so he decided to pursue a career as an attorney instead. He took the Law School Admission Test and began studying at Drexel University’s School of Law in August 2011. He interned in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office for two years beginning in the summer of 2012, before landing a position there as an assistant district attorney after graduation. He worked there for nine years but the desire to become a police officer never left.

By the fall of 2021, protests against police brutality saw officers nationwide leave the police force. Fancher believed a change could happen if good people joined the police force.

“All they need are good people out there. If good people become good police officers, there shouldn’t be these complaints,” he said he remembered thinking. “I think I’m a good person. I think I have a good head on my shoulders. I think I have what it takes.”

His wife, a defense attorney, supported his decision. In December 2021 he filled out an application to join the Upper Merion Police Department but never submitted it. He had second thoughts and waited another year until he heard from a friend who worked in the department that there were job openings.

“I was like man, Upper Merion is a premiere police department in Montgomery County,” he said. “They’re professional, they have integrity, they have a culture that’s supportive and a community that’s very supportive of them.”

In July 2023 he applied for a position and got the job. Then Fancher had to tell District Attorney Office Kevin R. Steele he’d be leaving. To his credit, Steele understood.

“He was very supportive,” said Fancher. “He said ‘I know it’s something you’ve always wanted to do. That’s great. It’s a big leap. Be safe.’”

Top of the class

After he was sworn in this past January, he began studying at MCCC’s Police Academy. He can remember his first few days vividly.

“I tried to hide my background,” he said. “I wanted to be treated like a regular person. I didn’t want to be treated special by anybody, mostly the instructors or fellow students. I wanted to be one of them.”

That plan lasted one day, as an instructor asked the class if anyone had a law degree and looked right at Fancher.

“There was an audible gasp in the classroom,” he said. “I remember people sitting next to me making a sound.”

While there have been times here Fancher said his classmates or instructors will defer to him for legal expertise, he said he’s still learning a lot from the Police Academy. Things like tactics, where to position your body during a routine traffic stop, thoroughly searching someone for weapons after they’re placed in handcuffs and other skills a police officer needs to know are all areas Fancher said he’s starting from scratch just like his fellow cadets.

“I couldn’t be happier with the educational materials put together,” he said. “It’s obviously standardized by MPOETC, but the instructors are real police officers with real experience so they interweb their stories with the lessons. That’s really the most important and helpful.”  

Fancher is on track to become the valedictorian of his class and his instructors say he is a natural leader.  

“I had high expectations of him before he started the Academy and he has exceeded them,” said Georgette Hill, Director of the Municipal Police Academy. “He is a natural class leader and humble. Before making him class leader, I spoke with him about it. He offered to give someone else the experience as a leader, since he has had many leadership roles throughout his career. I decided to make him class lieutenant because I had the utmost confidence in him to manage the class well. He has done a great job thus far.”

An eye to the future

After graduating from the Police Academy, Fancher will be on probation with Upper Merion for a year before he’s a full patrol officer. He hopes to one day become a detective in the department, but right now is focused on being the best patrol officer he can be.

“We’ll see where the chips fall,” he said.

While he was sad to leave the District Attorney’s Office, Fancher said he never wanted to regret the decision to follow his biggest passion in life.

“It’s something within me,” he said. “I don’t want to be older and regret not following this path. I’m just going to take the leap and I’m sorry to have to leave the office, but police work is number one.”