Veteran officers start new jobs

August 26, 1994|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,Sun Staff Writer

It's "been a long time" since Jay C. Landsman has written a traffic ticket to a lead-footed motorist. It's been longer still -- about 15 years -- since the 22-year veteran has even worn a police uniform.

Yet the former Baltimore City homicide detective is more than eager to once again don a blue hat, proudly wear the shiny, new badge and sport the crisp, white shirt and blue slacks. Except this time, the 43-year-old Woodstock resident will be patrolling the streets of Garrison Precinct as a new Baltimore County police officer.

Officer Landsman is one of 12 officers from the 91st police academy class who graduated last night in a ceremony at Timonium Fairgrounds. The officers, all with experience in other police departments, are part of the first "lateral entry" officers to join the county force. For the program, officers were recruited through other police departments, rather than the positions being generally advertised, said E. Jay Miller, county police spokesman. The 12, including nine from Baltimore Police Department, were chosen from 65 applications after the county did background checks and reviews.

"The opportunities were excellent in Baltimore County," said Officer Landsman, who was one of the detectives featured in the book "Homicide" by Sun reporter David Simon.

"We were looking for a change, for something different," said Officer Landsman, who retired from his city job June 1 and started in the county academy three days later. "And the lateral program opened it up for us. The county also has a good reputation, and many of us were fortunate enough to be chosen. I'd just like to get back into the swing of things."

Created over the past two years because a shortage of officers, the lateral entry program was designed to reduce training time and costs and fill openings more quickly.

The new graduates listed a variety of reasons for applying. For some, it meant a less stressful working environment and better benefits. Some wanted to be closer to home or have a change of atmosphere. Some listed better pay as a factor, while others are able to draw pensions from their old departments plus a salary with a new department.

Because they were experienced, the new graduates went through 10 weeks of training instead of the normal 27 weeks for new recruits. Their training focused mostly on different procedures they would face and weaknesses they needed to resolve.

For example, two new officers from California needed more time in the classroom to study Maryland laws and statutes. Some who had been out of the patrol mode for some time, such as Officer Landsman, had to relearn how to write traffic reports and to handle new equipment and weapons.

Despite their experience, the 12 will get no special treatment and are starting their county careers as patrol officers, just as a regular graduate of the academy would, Mr. Miller said. One difference is that they will be allowed to finish any cases they were working on in their old departments.

Depending on the experience they bring, lateral entry officers can start at salaries up to $34,000 a year -- the equivalent of the pay for a five-year county veteran.

Officer Landsman and Donald K. Ossmus Jr., another retired city homicide detective, are two of three officers coming in with at least 20 years experience. The other is Gary J. Fischer, who was a city narcotics detective and now will be patrolling in the Cockeysville precinct, as will Officer Ossmus.

"You feel very comfortable with what to do when you've been with one department for so long," said Officer Ossmus, 39, a 21-year veteran who helped solve the slaying of Lynne McCoy, a real estate agent killed last Dec. 21 in West Baltimore while showing a house.

"There was a lot of anxiety in leaving and starting again because you wonder what it will be like in a new department and what they'll expect of you," said Officer Ossmus of Carney. "I do miss the homicide investigations and being able to outfox someone who thinks they got away with a crime. But, I don't miss the stressful situations you get in the city.

"I don't miss missing [family] birthdays, special holidays, swim team competitions and dance recitals because I was too busy working two to three days straight.

"Besides, the benefit package, working conditions and salary are great."

The other graduates and their assignments include: Dennis J. Delp (North Point precinct); Dereck A. Donovan (Garrison); Victor E. Epps (Towson); Charles D. Markey (Towson); Douglas J. McManus (Woodlawn); Mark A. Noppenberger (Essex); William T. Page (Woodlawn); Gloria J. Strong (Essex); and Timothy B. Ward (North Point).

At 23, Officer Page, formerly a member of the Salisbury Police Department's tactical unit, is one of the youngest lateral entry officers. For him, this is a return home. He grew up in Perry Hall and lives in Owings Mills.

"I applied to Salisbury back in 1992," said Officer Page, who is the class valedictorian. "My dad was a Baltimore County police officer, and I had always wanted to work for Baltimore County police. Now that I'm back home, I love it, I just love it."

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