Community policing gets federal boost

October 13, 1994|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- In 1992, when Bill Clinton ran for president, Haiti, health care and Hillary Rodham Clinton were not big campaign themes. But "community policing" was. In speech after speech on the campaign trail, Mr. Clinton quoted statistics showing that the number of police officers on the beat had not kept pace with increases in population, criminals or crimes.

Candidate Clinton pledged to foster cooperation between police departments and the public in the approach known as community policing. The recently passed crime bill contained $8.8 billion for 2,770 more officers.

Yesterday, at the White House, President Clinton presided at a ceremony to distribute the first $200 million of this money to nearly 400 jurisdictions in the United States. They include eight in Maryland, which are to receive some $4.8 million -- enough money to hire 75 officers.

Nearly half of the state's share goes to Montgomery County, which will hire 36 officers. Baltimore County gets $1.7 million, for 23 officers. The rest is distributed to six smaller jurisdictions, Berlin, Frederick, Fruitland, Havre de Grace, Mount Rainier and Takoma Park, which will get from one to five new officers apiece.

Normally, these ceremonies are about as interesting as watching the grass on the South Lawn grow. Yesterday, however, the president and several dozen police chiefs were mesmerized by a story told by David Massey, the Ocean City police chief.

On the night of Aug. 20, he related, officers in his town interrupted a sexual assault and arrested a man suspected of committing a string of rapes in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

It began shortly after midnight, when officer Mark L. Paddack was riding his bicycle on patrol on St. Louis Avenue near 14th Street. He heard a woman scream, which, he recalls thinking, is not unusual at that hour on a summer night at the beach. But when he heard the cry, "Police!" he jumped off his bike and ran into the townhouse where the cries came from.

There, a woman told him that a man who assaulted her had just escaped out the back door. Officer Paddack called for backup.

The officers who responded, also on bicycles, were two others in the Community Policing Unit, Glen McIntyre and Brett Case.

The two gave chase. Officer McIntyre spotted a man hiding behind a car and sweating. The officer, a former University of Maryland football player, jumped off his bike and tackled the suspect.

"I knew how to tackle guys from my days at Maryland," he said yesterday after shaking the president's hand. "Doing it while jumping off a bike is the tricky part. But we received 40 hours of training [on bicycles], and, believe it or not, we practiced that."

Officer Paddack said the rape victim in the townhouse identified the suspect, 28-year-old Michael Francis Siple, as the man who had broken into her apartment. He was subsequently charged with burglary, rape and assault and battery. He was also charged in a 1992 break-in and sexual assault in Ocean City.

But the story didn't end there. Since 1990, detectives in Wilmington, Del., were convinced that a serial rapist was striking women in a three-state area. At its height, two dozen Delaware law enforcement officers worked on the case, New Castle County spent about a half-million dollars investigating, and the FBI was brought in to help run through nearly 1,000 tips and other leads.

That extraordinary effort failed to produce a suspect. What did so was community policing -- and the Ocean City police bicycle patrol.

Since his arrest in August, Mr. Siple has since been charged with one of the Delaware attacks, and officials in both states have asserted in court filings that he has confessed to the rapes.

He is in the Worcester County detention center in Snow Hill on the Eastern Shore, awaiting trial after having waived his preliminary hearing, officials said.

At the White House, Mr. Clinton said yesterday that he had been told about the Ocean City case by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Democrat of Maryland. It was just the kind of example that White House domestic policy aides wanted to showcase at yesterday's ceremony.

"I think all Americans know that we can never be strong abroad unless we are first strong at home," the president said. "As we are very proud of the work our armed forces are doing today in Haiti and in the [Persian] Gulf, we know that . . . our ability to make our people secure is the critical element of personal freedom that rests at the root of our strength as a nation."

After listening to Chief Massey, Mr. Clinton thanked him and his officers.

Bruce Reed, a White House domestic policy adviser, said, "Those officers were hired with a $150 million supplemental appropriation from 1993 that was a kind of down payment on the crime bill. This shows that community policing works."

Officer Paddack, also present for the ceremony, was asked one final question: Was he certain that the money for the bicycle patrol came from the federal government.

"Oh yes," he answered. "I know because I wrote the grant [application]."

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