On the beat, unending patience is the price of peace
No complaint is too trivial for the county Police Department to handle.
For the last few weeks, I've been spending my days and evenings riding along with the county's finest. Although one would think people call police only for emergencies, life-threatening situations can mean different things to different people.
Take, for example, the Glen Burnie woman who dialed 911 when she saw four youths with baseball bats chasing a cat through her neighborhood.
Officer Jeff Little of the Eastern District patiently responded to her plea.
Arriving at her house to get a description of the perpetrators, Officer Little listened patiently to her story and took notes.
The woman explained that she saw the boys as she pulled up in the parking lot of her town house community. The cat, a "scrawny" thing, was desperately trying to escape the boys. She wasn't sure who the boys were or what they wanted with the cat. But she knew they didn't live in the neighborhood.
The officer and I cruised the neighborhood for a short while, hoping to confront the cat's assailants and rescue the feline.
But no luck. There was no cat or young boys to be seen. Little and I weren't worried: Any feline is faster than your average teen-ager.
Another case in point: During Officer Joseph Hatcher's day shift, he received a call for a family fight. The caller was a woman in her 50s, at a pay phone in a Glen Burnie shopping center.
She told the dispatchers her son and husband were fighting and she needed someone to accompany her home.
Hatcher and I met the woman at the center and followed her home. The fight had ended before the three of us arrived, and the woman's husband was sitting on the front porch.
"Nag, nag, nag, that's all she does," the husband growled. "I just try to stay out of her way. I don't go in the house. I just stay outside."
The husband's remarks touched off a running argument between the couple, who had been married for 23 years. Apparently, they never got along.
Although it was obvious there had been no crime, Hatcher, of Northern District, tried to help the couple settle their differences.
"You need each other," said Hatcher, a married man. He noted that one of their problems was their 22-year-old son, who still lives with them.
Hatcher said he had been to the couple's home before and the disputes usually centered on the son. This time, the husband was angry because the wife had bought clothing for their son. The wife was miffed because no one appreciated her.
After listening longer than most people would, Hatcher excused himself and told the couple that if another problem arose, not hesitate to call him. He would return and help settle the dispute.
Patience is a prerequisite for this job.
There was the Pasadena man who called police because someone had been stealing rocks from the pile in his backyard. How was he sure that some of the 60 rocks were gone? More grass had grown on one side of the pile then ever had in the past, he explained to Officer Kathy Fahrman, of the Eastern District.
Although all of these officers carry guns and are expected to respond to tragic scenes or confront dangerous criminals, those dramatic situations are not the norm.
Officers are also expected to be the peacekeepers in the neighborhood, and sometimes that's much harder than confronting a hardened criminal.
Wayne Turner knows it ain't over till the fat lady sings.
But he's hedging his bets, just in case she starts singing soon.
The Republican alderman, who represents Annapolis' 6th Ward, wants to make sure the city is left with a legacy once the state finishes tearing down the old Severn River Bridge. He's negotiated a deal to save five lamp posts from the crumbling drawbridge.
"If we can preserve the bridge, that's fine," he said, when asked whether the idea isn't a bit premature. Construction of an 80-foot-high span to replace the old bridge has begun, but a group is still fighting the project.
The Citizens for a Scenic River Bridge recently trekked to Richmond, Va., in an attempt to stop construction of the high bridge. They argued their case in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the last stop before the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision on whether the state violated environmental regulations and common sense by planning a super-span over the Severn is expected by fall.
Turner wasn't on the bus. But he's determined to keep at least a piece -- make that five pieces -- of Annapolis history.
He's thinking of installing them around the flagpole down at the City Dock.
Who knows? Maybe the sound of cars heading up Main Street will remind people of the swish of sailboats passing under the bridge.