College graduates sought for police work Participants would patrol city streets for pay, aid with student loans

February 10, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

A call is going out to 1996 and 1997 college graduates to police the streets of Baltimore for four years in exchange for a starting salary of $26,388 and up to $30,000 in forgiveness of student loans.

Maryland Police Corps, a federal pilot program, is recruiting applicants to its first class of 40 cadets, which will begin training in April at the Maritime Institute of Technology in Linthicum to become Baltimore patrol officers in the fall.

"We need to get the word out," said Marty Burns, spokeswoman for the governor's Crime Control and Prevention Office. "We're thinking we need a pool of 1,200 to apply to come up with 40 candidates by April."

Police Corps began mailing out 24,000 brochures last week to 1996 graduates from 35 colleges and universities in and out of state. A Web page will be posted on the Internet Saturday.To drum up interest among 1997 graduates, speakers offering T-shirts will visit campus career offices.

Eyes on Md. program

Much is riding on the success of Maryland's version of the federal program because, as Charles Miller, spokesman for the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services, observed, "Maryland got the vast majority of [government] moneys, so they will be watched. Any corrections that need to be made will be carefully noted."

Maryland was awarded $6.5 million in federal funds for the first year of Police Corps, compared with $4 million divided among five other states. An unusual amount of political power was harnessed here to support the program, which was championed by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier.

4 months of training

On a typical day at the four-month residential training program cadets rise at 6 a.m. for physical fitness and self-defense classes. Days are filled with lectures on police note-taking at crime scenes and legal procedures for stops, searches, seizures and arrests.

With traditional police methods, the 120 cadets trained in three classes of 40 in the spring, summer and fall will learn the basics of "community policing."

"Live-in training will ensure that every hour of instruction has a direct relationship to the principles of community policing," Frazier said.

Some criminologists, including Robert Croati of Northeastern University, consider community policing "a new name for an old concept" of walking a neighborhood beat and knowing its character inside out. Townsend noted that it also emphasizes problem-solving and prevention rather than simply reacting and responding to calls.

Cadets who complete the training course will be paired with Baltimore patrol officers for five weeks of street experience. Then they become sworn officers, making the union standard salary in addition to forgiveness of $7,500 a year in government student loans.

The hope is that the program, based on the military ROTC and the Peace Corps, will infuse Baltimore and other city police forces with fresh energy and "raise the bar" for educational achievement, Frazier said.

Of the 490 officers hired last year by the city, only 16 percent hold bachelor's degrees.

Frazier and Schmoke hope that, after four years, a significant number of Police Corps cadets will choose careers in law enforcement, though cadets have no obligation. "Whether they stay or go, we can't lose," said Frazier, adding that the Police Corps will enhance the general understanding of police work.

"They'll go into all walks of life," said Burns, "but take that knowledge with them."

Information and applications: 1 (888) 97-CORPS.

Pub Date: 2/10/97

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