Officer cited for his cool With violent teen, he used guitar PASADENA

December 04, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

Officer Brian D. Smith is no Dirty Harry. In fact, when confronted last spring by a violent teen-ager, he reached not for his gun, but for his guitar.

The 15-year-old boy, upset by the not-guilty verdict in the Los Angeles beating of Rodney King, had smashed up his parents' home with a guitar when police arrived.

The officers tried to calm him, but "he wouldn't even acknowledge that we were there," recalled Officer Smith, recently named Police Officer of the Year for the Eastern District, which includes Pasadena. "But then I saw the guitar and figured maybe that was his hobby. It turns out it's the only thing he wanted to talk about."

The next day, Officer Smith thought of the guitar he kept beneath his bed, brushed away the cobwebs and drove it over to the boy's Severna Park home. That made a lasting impression on the boy's father and Officer Smith's supervisors, who recommended him for the Officer of the Year award.

"Officer Smith is a social worker with a side arm," said Sgt. Cleveland E. Smith, who supervises Officer Smith's midnight shift.

Charles Mattice, president of the Eastern District Community Relations Council, said Officer Smith, 26, was chosen from among seven other nominees. He received his award during a ceremony at the Mountain Road police station last month.

He said the 5-year-old awards program helps make the community aware of the what police officers do.

"It's not one outstanding thing the officers do -- it has to be something that they do throughout the year," Mr. Mattice said.

Sergeant Cleveland's recommendation stressed Officer Smith's manners, responsiveness and professionalism in dealing with the public -- including criminal suspects.

"Mindful of their civil rights and their dignity as human beings, Officer Smith does not use excessive force or antagonize persons in police custody," Sergeant Cleveland wrote.

For his part, Officer Smith said he's not sure why he was singled out for the honor. "Anybody on the midnight shift could have gotten this award," he said. "They all do a great job."

Raised in Linthicum and educated at Archbishop Spalding High School, Officer Smith said he joined the Baltimore City force as cadet seven years ago. Why?

"Good question. Mostly for the excitement, I guess. My old high school principal, this is the last job I'm sure he ever thought I'd get into."

He definitely found the excitement he was looking for.

"Living in Linthicum, I didn't have any dealings with violent crime. Working in Baltimore City was an eye opener. It was out of control."

Gradually, the shootings and armed robberies began to seem routine. "You start building a tolerance to them," he said.

Four years ago, he was lured to the Anne Arundel force by the prospect of higher pay and his own patrol car.

"Literally, I turned in my equipment in Baltimore City one day and was working the Arnold area the next," he said. "It was quite a shock. It's a lot slower pace. [The county] has its share of crime, but it's not as violent as the city."

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