Vickie R. Warehime studied drunkenness in the Baltimore County police academy classroom. She even playacted walking into a barroom brawl. But the real thing still caught her off guard.
"I had my nose broken," she said of her third night of on-the-job training.
"It was strange," she said. "He was intoxicated, going through the cycles from quiet to enraged. There were two of us in the room . . . and I got the un-handcuffed side."
When the suspect suddenly became wild and grabbed a chair, she moved in to help subdue him. And he punched her in the nose.
"I learned to watch his hands," Officer Warehime said of the experience. "And, that with all the training you have, you don't know what's going to happen."
Officer Warehime and 31 other newly minted Baltimore County police officers, the first recruit class since 1991, will remember similar lessons as they take their oaths of office tonight at Goucher College.
After 26 weeks of training that included physical conditioning, law, human relations, and driving skills, they will patrol alone this weekend.
In their final month, the new officers were partnered with an experienced field training officer (FTO), who handled calls while the recruits watched and learned. Gradually, the recruits took responsibility.
Jennifer A. Eaton found herself in the middle of an armed robbery on her first night in the field, and she and her partner, in their patrol car, "chased the suspect right around the corner and arrested him."
As they finished their last day at police academy in Dundalk yesterday, the new officers spoke seriously and humorously about their training, their fears and their motives for choosing police work -- all out of earshot of Lt. Richard A. Koller Jr., their training commander.
Most of the new officers are in their 20s, with an average age of 24. Most are from the Baltimore metropolitan area.
There were only two dropouts, Lieutenant Koller said.
Misty L. Huber, who's wanted to be a police officer since she was 13, said, "The reason why most of us came here is to be there for other people and to be there for each other's needs."
Michael A. Cortes III said he chose police work because he didn't want "to have the same kind of job all day."
"Here, you get in and you don't know what you're going to do that day," he said. "You don't sit there doing the same thing all day, day after day."
Officer Huber and seven others started as police cadets before they were 21, doing clerical work and writing parking tickets.
"Three or four of us have been waiting three years for a class, because of the budget crunch," Officer Huber said.
Robert A. Conroy's parents said he learned that he had been selected for the new class while he was serving with the Marines in the Persian Gulf war. He called back from overseas to join up.
The out-of-towners in the class had different impressions of Baltimore.
Officer Cortes, speaking in the accent of his native New York, said he left because "New York City is too crazy. There's guns all over." He finds the Baltimore area "warmer, . . . less fast-paced, different."
But James E. Bell, a North Carolina native, found life "colder and faster" here.
"People are more hospitable down South," Officer Bell said. "Down South, people stop and talk to you like they know you, even if they don't know you. Here they look at you like, 'I don't know you.' "
As part of their training, the recruits had to playact answering calls -- by walking into a room where their armed teachers waited. The recruits didn't know whether they'd be facing a bank robbery, a bar brawl or a domestic dispute.
"If you miss here, you still have a chance," Officer Warehime said of their blunders during training. "In real life, if you don't search a suspect and he has a gun . . ."
As the moment of passage approached, Officer Conroy said he was most caught up by "the newness of everything: Being out on the street, not having your FTO telling you what to do -- it's TC whole different world."