When patients at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Philadelphia come back for follow-up procedures months or even years later, they often ask: "Will I get to see Lieutenant Mike?"
They're referring to Lt. Mike Dwyer, 57, a supervisor in the Police Department's Research and Planning Unit who has volunteered at the North Philly hospital since 1970.
"The kids love him, because most of them see him as someone they can trust," said Terry Diamond, director of development at the hospital, on Broad Street below Venango. "He's extremely dedicated, concerned about children and the community at large, very giving, very loving and always available."
Today, for the fourth time, the married father of two will be honored as a finalist for the George Fencl Award, which the Daily News presents yearly to the officer who most exemplifies Fencl's passion, dedication and courage.
At Shriners, Dwyer plans theme parties for patients four times a year, makes monthly visits to talk to the children, and helps the staff in any way he can.
"Even if it's not an event he is running, no matter what I ask him to do, he's never said 'no,' " said Diamond, who has worked with Dwyer for about 13 years and nominated him for the Fencl.
Dwyer is the fourth generation of police officers in his family. After 38 years on the job, he says he still takes every assignment seriously.
"I got on the job in 1972 and have been hooked ever since," he said.
And, despite some tough assignments along the way, he still loves his job.
"If the job isn't fun anymore, you shouldn't be doing it," Dwyer said.
In Research and Planning, Dwyer oversees researchers, statisticians and analysts who draft procedures, fulfill statistics requests from the news media and analyze departmental data.
"What we do is indirectly try to make the job of the cop on the street a little easier," Dwyer said.
Dwyer has worked in Accident Investigation; Northwest Detectives, which investigates crime in Roxborough, West Oak Lane and parts of North Philadelphia; and as a patrol cop in the 26th District, headquartered at Girard and Montgomery Avenues, which covers parts of Fishtown.
Along the way, he says, he has taken one important philosophy with him.
"I think it's important to always have empathy and compassion," Dwyer said.
"You can do any job like a robot, but if you show some compassion and [use] a personal touch, it does a lot more to help a person."
Dwyer's personal-touch philosophy doesn't go unnoticed among his colleagues and his boss in Research and Planning, where he has been assigned since 2003.
"Mike is the linchpin that holds the unit together," said his boss, Capt. James Brady.
"He is the kind of guy that has time for everybody, a true professional who has maintained his enthusiasm for the law-enforcement profession after 37 years.
"It's an award that is definitely well-deserved."