A Baltimore policewoman cited for solving cases and arresting suspects and a Baltimore County policeman who developed a youth program and a bicycle patrol were named last night as the Baltimore Sun Police Officers of the Year.
City Officer Wanda E. Dobbins, 39, whose record of solving crimes and making arrests was described as among the best in the Northern District, received the award for excellence in law enforcement.
County Officer Paul Richard Wieber, 39, won for outstanding community service in developing a Police Athletic League youth center in the Lansdowne-Riverview area and for establishing bike patrols in suburban neighborhoods.
The winners, chosen from among 41 officers nominated by their departments around the state, were announced at the 35th annual Officer of the Year Awards ceremony, which was held at Martin's West.
"These are difficult times for police officers," said the newspaper's publisher, Michael J. Davies, "not just in Los Angeles, but everywhere. You are now expected to be part priest, part psychologist, part social worker and, in your spare time, cops."
He added, "Tonight, we are here to demonstrate that as a company, we understand your importance to our communities and to the fabric of our lives."
Officer Dobbins, a six-year veteran of the city force, has worked in uniform, plainclothes and covert operations. Last year, she made 50 arrests and solved 32 cases. She was cited for investigative skills that helped win convictions in 90 percent of her cases.
Officer Wieber, a 17-year veteran, is assigned to the county's Citizen Oriented Police Enforcement (COPE) unit, which addresses problems at the neighborhood level.
He was cited for non-traditional policing methods that resulted, in part, in establishment of the bike patrols.
Officer Wieber, the father of two daughters -- Amanda, 15, and Kimberly, 12 -- also was nominated for the newspaper award in 1979 and 1981. He said his special interest in working with young people was the reason he set up the PAL office in the Riverview Elementary School last year.
Nearly 250 students have registered for the center's programs, with an average of 130 taking part in sports activities and games each day that it is open.
"Because of the breakdown in families today, youngsters are in a dire need of a role model," he said. "I want to teach them that police officers are good people."
He said the bike patrols are an outgrowth of the trend toward community policing, which Officer Wieber termed "the wave of the future." The bicycle patrols are "another way of getting close to the community," he added.
Officer Dobbins said she switched to a career in law enforcement after 9 1/2 years as an employee of AT&T.
"I was interested in police work. I love working with other people. I've always had an interest in helping the community," she said.
On Dec. 21, 1990, Officer Dobbins chased and helped capture one of two men who gunned down a Waverly barber in a robbery attempt.
The officer was riding in a patrol car with a partner, Sgt. George Bewley, when they heard the gunshots and saw the fleeing suspects.
"I just wanted to catch him," she recalled last night, "and be as safe as I could for myself and the citizens because the streets were crowded because of Christmas."