UP CLOSE: Strack promoted to assistant Lake Placid police chief

Frank Strack, who’s spent more than 17 years working for the Lake Placid Police Department, stands next to a patrol car outside the station in the North Elba Town Hall on Wednesday, March 22. Strack was promoted from his longtime position as a sergeant to the assistant police chief on Monday, March 20. (News photo — Lauren Yates)

LAKE PLACID — Lake Placid native Frank Strack grew up watching his family members serve their communities through law enforcement.

Strack’s father works for the New York State Police, and his uncle was the chief of police for the Plattsburgh Police Department. After years of seeing his father and uncle help people in their lowest moments, Strack knew he wanted to join law enforcement. Now, after 20 years of combined service with the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid police departments under his belt, he said he’s personally experienced the rewards of helping people.

On Monday, March 20, Strack was rewarded again when the Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees approved his promotion to assistant police chief at the Lake Placid Police Department, a title that was last held by current Chief Chuck Dobson, who was promoted last March.

Strack earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice from North Country Community College. He first joined the Lake Placid Police Department as a patrolman in 2005 after serving as a patrolman in Saranac Lake for nearly two years. He was promoted to sergeant in 2012, a title he held for the last 10 years or so.

As a sergeant, Strack said took on a supervisor role — he was constantly in the field and making immediate decisions. As assistant police chief, he’ll take on more administrative work in the department — assisting the chief with planning and developing, coordinating activities and events, and ensuring that the department is running according to its organizational ethics and standards that call on officers to serve their community in the most effective way they can.

Every police department has different policies, and Strack said he believes in Lake Placid’s. Officers here are particularly focused on having an active role in the community. While some departments might simply throw misplaced items in a community lost and found, for instance, Strack said the Lake Placid department puts in the extra work to return items to their owners.

“I believe we sign up for this job to provide a service, and it’s important to make sure that that service doesn’t get forgotten,” he said.

The public perception of police over the last few years has ranged from supportive to fraught, as some departments and their members have come under investigation for using excessive force when encountering citizens — especially people of color. But in Lake Placid, Strack feels the community has stayed supportive of its police over the years.

Strack — who will celebrate his 43rd birthday this Sunday, March 26 — has worn a lot of hats in his more than 17 years with the department. He’s served as a firearms instructor, Taser instructor, general topics instructor and field training officer. In December 2021, a Lake Placid News reporter went for a cruise in his patrol car as he handed out “Secret Santa” cash provided by an anonymous donor to unsuspecting citizens. He said it was rewarding to be able to be part of that effort, which he believes helped changed some people’s negative perception of police.

Law enforcement has also served as a source of new family for Strack. He met his wife April, who’s a zone sergeant for the State Police, while serving as a patrolman in Saranac Lake.

When he’s not in uniform, Strack said he has a lot of interests. He enjoys playing hockey in the winter and golf in the summer, and he’s the assistant coach for the Sara-Placid Lakers hockey team. He also helps coach the Lake Placid minor softball team, which his 11-year-old daughter Harper plays on. She also plays on a travel softball team, and Strack often travels with her for competitions.

Strack remembers some major moments in his career that left him with a positive feeling. He responded to a fire at a local apartment years ago where the occupants were trapped inside. When the department arrived, smoke was billowing from the apartment window. A woman yelled out that she had a child inside and they couldn’t get out. The police found a ladder nearby and met her at the window. She handed the child over to first responders, who passed down the young one using a human chain that included visiting tourists. The mother also escaped unscathed.

When it comes to day-to-day service, Strack said it’s easy for him to get accustomed to doing his job. He goes out on call after call, just doing what needs to be done. But when a citizen takes the time out of their day to thank an officer for doing that job, he said it’s an unexpected and rewarding surprise. What he thought was just another call — something as seemingly small as helping someone get into their house after being locked out and separated from their cat — was, for someone else, a make-or-break moment in their day. Returning back to the police department and seeing a thank-you note goes a long way for the officers.

“That’s something I will say that — as the career goes — that every one of us enjoys seeing those type of things,” he said.

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