Let The Driver Beware . . .

'Secret Weapon' Sniffs Out The Hasty Andthe Expired

December 02, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Greg Russell rides the mean streets of North County.

He's out there at the crack of dawn and late at nights with his radar running andhis ticket-book poised.

He's looking for the speed kings, the drunken drivers and the reckless ones who cruise down Ritchie Highway in cars with expired tags.

His colleagues joke that Officer Russell can smell a suspended driver a mile away.

In just one year since he's joined the Northern District Police Station, the 28-year-old officer has issued nearly 1,600 traffic citations.

That's a third of the tickets written by 15patrol officers.

He also has arrested 57 people this year for driving under the influence of alcohol.

He's been nicknamed the Northern District's "secret weapon" for fighting traffic problems on the streets of Brooklyn Park, Ferndale and Linthicum.

On Wednesday, Russell will be honored for his efforts to make the highways of North County a little safer. The Northern District's Police Community Relations Council has chosen him as officer of the year.

"Although Officer Russell joined the department just last October, he has already seta pace that few veteran or rookie officers can come close to," Lt. James A. Fahrman wrote in a memorandum recommending Russell.

Russell said he enjoys the patrol beat because it keeps him busy.

"It's a little different every day," he said. "There's always something to do."

He grew up in Harford County and joined the Army after a yearand a half of studying at the local community college. While in the Army, he became a member of the military police.

When he was discharged, he decided to continue a career in law enforcement.

He worked as a police officer in Ocean City during the summers to put himself through the University of Baltimore.

Russell wanted a job in Anne Arundel County when he graduated, but the police force wasn't hiring at the time. So he worked for Baltimore County until the departmenthad an opening.

The only thing he dislikes about his work is the problems he sees in the court system.

Too many of the drunken drivers he arrests "get off with a slap on the wrist," he complains. Although some judges take a tough stance, too many seem reluctant to put people in jail, he said.

"There are twice as many people killed bydrunk drivers every day than by drugs in the United States," said Russell, who is studying at nights for his master's degree in legal ethics. "But if you're not putting them in jail for it, where's the deterrence?"

Russell has strong opinions about safe driving because heoften works as an accident reconstructionist, investigating fatal crashes such as the time a beer truck flipped over on Camp Meade Road in May.

"There's plenty of stuff going on out there, unless you drive with your eyes closed," he said.

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