2 Balto. Co. officers win Sun awards

April 28, 1995|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Sun Staff Writer

Two Baltimore County police officers were named as winners yesterday of the 38th annual Baltimore Sun Police Officer of the Year awards -- one for his tenacious pursuit of a child molester, the other for creating a program to help underprivileged and disabled children.

An independent panel of judges selected the winners from among 90 police and correctional officers in 11 jurisdictions across Maryland nominated for exceptional work in law enforcement and community service. The winners are:

* Officer William Patrick Harmon, cited for hundreds of hours of effort to arrest a child molester who picked his victims at a library.

* Sgt. Michael Maddox, whose discovery of two children living in a cardboard box led to his creation of the Police and Children Together (PACT) program, enlisting business and other resources to address the problems of youngsters in economically depressed sections of Essex.

The ceremonies at the Towson Sheraton marked the second consecutive year that officers from Baltimore County won both awards. Each received an engraved crystal bowl and $1,500.

County Police Chief Michael D. Gambrill said Officer Harmon and Sergeant Maddox "are the tip of the iceberg, not only in Baltimore County but of all the fine men and women in law enforcement in Maryland."

Gov. Parris N. Glendening also praised Maryland's law enforcement officers, and cited the dangers they face -- recalling the funerals of slain officers he attended as Prince George's County executive, and the killing Wednesday night of police Cpl. John J. Novabilski in that county.

Officer Harmon's work brought the arrest of a 63-year-old man who found his victims in the children's reading section of the Catonsville library. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison for molesting two boys, ages 2 and 4.

Officer Harmon, 32, of the Wilkens Precinct was unrelenting in his search for the station wagon used by the molester -- a vehicle with stolen tags.

"I parked in alleys, on side streets, day and night, and one day on patrol I saw the vehicle, its hood up and steam coming from the engine. The suspect was leaning into it and I realized I finally had the guy," Officer Harmon said.

"Law enforcement is growing in leaps and bounds when it comes to technology, computers," he said. "But I guess there really is no replacement for old-fashioned persistence and wearing out that shoe leather."

Sergeant Maddox, 35, of the Essex Precinct began his program in 1992 after his unsettling discovery of the two children -- ages 8 and 9 -- living in a cardboard box in a clump of woods on the property of Martin State Airport.

"This is not the way it should be in this country," he said.

Sergeant Maddox has been assisted by other officers in his program to help underprivileged and handicapped children grow intellectually, emotionally and physically.

"We got kids to places they never been before like horseback riding, the zoo, baseball games, hiking and fishing," he said.

"I went to one boy's baseball game, in uniform, and he was so proud that I was there for him. He stays in touch with me now. And these kids and their parents have great positive attitudes toward the police. "This work makes me feel good," he said. "Some of these kids were going to school in the winter without socks. Now that has changed."

The awards judges were Robert F. Sweeney, chief judge of the District Court of Maryland; Benjamin Wright, criminal justice professor at the University of Baltimore; and Richard W. Friedman, executive director of the Maryland Juvenile Justice Advisory Council.

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