Police life gives him the right mix
By EMILY NIPPS
Published March 23, 2007
Four years ago, David Mensch had an impressive career as a polymer chemist, a wife who taught Spanish and his first child on the way.
So imagine his wife Heidi's surprise when he came home one day and told her he wanted to be a police officer.
It would mean that David, then 32, would give up a cushy job making adhesives for a life of fighting crime on the streets.
As it turned out, both Mensches quit their jobs, which brought in a combined $80,000 a year. Heidi stayed home to watch the baby while David earned $250 per week at the Tampa police academy.
"It was a very, very huge deal for us," Heidi Mensch said. "I didn't marry a cop."
Yet she knew her husband would never feel fulfilled as a chemist. After watching his wife find joy in teaching others and then becoming a mother, Mensch needed to feel like he was making a bigger contribution to others' lives.
"Chemists are a dime a dozen," Mensch said. "When I went into chemistry, it was something my family was happy with, like, 'Oh, my son's a chemist, my brother's a chemist.' But I wasn't totally happy with it."
So when Mensch, who was working for Dexter Corp., saw an opportunity to apply for a Tampa police academy scholarship online, he had to go for it. He and his wife talked it over and agreed.
Within months, he was wearing a badge and patrolling the streets of District 2, which includes central and North Tampa. He now patrols east Tampa in District 3.
"It was a big change," Heidi Mensch said. "He was like a different person."
He was happier. He was proud. He felt like he was making a difference.
Mensch's love for the job shows in conversation. He can rattle on for ages about police tactics and laws and techniques. He is fascinated with crime and the criminals he deals with every day.
"I still sometimes can't believe it," he said. "I can't believe how people treat other people, and I want to know, 'Why'd you do it?' "
His diligence and quickness, particularly when it comes to stolen vehicles, earned him the Officer of the Month Award for March, which was presented to him at last week's City Council meeting. Police Chief Stephen Hogue lauded Mensch for his "textbook approach" to pursuing suspects, as he had two stolen car pursuits in January that caused no injuries or damage to property.
When Mensch accepted the award, he first thanked his wife. She was the one who first heard his crazy idea four years ago and "she asked me only one question," he said.
"Do you want to do this?"
Emily Nipps can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 269-5313.
Meet David Mensch
Occupation: Tampa police officer.
Known for: Nabbing car thieves in central and east Tampa.
Family: Wife, Heidi (married for 11 years); sons, Ben (4 years old) and Henry (6 months).
Lives: In Westchase area.
Hometown: Goshen, N.Y.
Schedule: Works four days on, four days off, on 11.5-hour shifts.
Former life: Worked as a polymer chemist, making mostly adhesives like Super Glue, for 11 years.
What he wanted to be growing up: A pro football player.
Favorite thing about being an officer: Being able to put the bad guys in jail.
Worst thing about being an officer: Paperwork.
[Last modified March 22, 2007, 08:08:01]
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