Twice-honored officer likes solving problems Drug detection is his specialty NORTH COUNTY -- Linthicum * Ferndale * Brooklyn Park * Pumphrey

February 22, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

When he was walking a beat on the streets of Baltimore, the faces and the cases became a blur, Michael A. Soriano says. He "never had a chance to sit down and be with people and solve the problem," he recalls.

So he left for the suburbs in 1989 and has never regretted it.

Nor have North County residents who made him Officer of the Year in their district for the second year in a row.

"He's an outstanding officer," said William McClellan, president of the Northern District Police Community Relations Council. "Through his own work, he has taken courses at his own expense to increase his capability of being a police officer. He didn't just go home after an eight-hour shift and do nothing."

Last year, Glen Burnie Lodge 2266 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks chose Officer Soriano, 37, policeman of the year.

When he worked in the city, he ran "from call to call to call" without harboring any illusions that he was making a difference, he said.

But since joining Anne Arundel County's force, he said, he has found what had eluded him for 10 years.

"You have time to get back and stay in touch and follow up to see if they've taken your advice and if it's working," he said.

Officer Soriano works the midnight to 7 a.m. shift.

During the day, he squeezes in a few hours of sleep, morning or afternoon traffic court and time with his wife.

But that schedule didn't stop the Linthicum resident from driving to Washington for rigorous training to become one of two Anne Arundel County officers qualified to evaluate drivers for drug use.

For six months, he took classes and written tests and studied on his own to became expert at identifying drugs in a user's system.

Because the state can't evaluate drug use through blood tests, drug recognition experts such as Officer Soriano check a suspected user's pulse, blood pressure, pupil size and temperature, then subject him to balancing or walking tests. Officer Soriano can be called upon any time to go anywhere in the county or state.

Since his certification in October, he has been called to about 20 traffic stops, often when officers stopped a driver who appeared drunk but passed a Breathalyzer test.

He has evaluated seven drivers this year, finding all under the influence of marijuana, PCP, or PCP and alcohol.

"If I can take this job for 30 years and help one person, the whole job is worth it," he said. "Through the years, I've helped more than one. It kind of makes you look forward to going to work every day."

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