William E. Armstrong, a retired Baltimore City police commander who earned a reputation for helping children through his work in the Police Boys Club, died of heart disease Friday at his home in Pasadena. He was 78.
Born and raised on Streeper Street in East Baltimore, Mr. Armstrong earned a law degree by attending night classes at the University of Baltimore, graduating magna cum laude in 1963.
He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in his 27 years with the city Police Department.
"The thing that I heard most along those years was that he was humane, that he made sure people got an even break," said his wife of 56 years, the former Helen Kroll. "He was happiest when he could help a kid get a start in life."
Mr. Armstrong graduated from Polytechnic Institute in 1937 and worked at the Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point plant before he joined the Police Department in 1944.
Assigned to the Southern District, he was transferred two years later to the district's Police Boys Club, "an association that tempered much of his career," a departmental newsletter said.
As a sergeant, he worked in the juvenile protection bureau's headquarters. That 1951 assignment, in part, was the precursor of what is now called community relations and Police Athletic League, where he helped initiate sports and academic programs for children who lived primarily in the poorer neighborhoods of the city.
Promoted to lieutenant and later to captain, he was assigned to the Pine Street station in West Baltimore, where he continued his work with children. He also commanded a squad of detectives and uniformed officers who investigated and solved a series of armed robberies in Northeast and Northwest Baltimore.
Successful resolution of that case led to an assignment at the FBI National Academy in Washington.
In 1966, as the Police Department was undergoing a major overhaul under the direction of a new commissioner, Donald D. Pomerleau, Mr. Armstrong was promoted to major and appointed director of the Internal Investigation Division. The unit's mission was to examine allegations of corrupt or inappropriate conduct by officers.
After his tour in IID, Mr. Armstrong was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He was deputy chief of patrol and head of the traffic division until he retired from the department in 1971.
Mr. Armstrong then worked as a hearing officer for the state Motor Vehicle Administration while also serving as an adviser to the Maryland Police Training Commission.
Mr. Armstrong remained active by teaching and working at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in East Baltimore.
"He kept track of people he helped, the people who would ask him for advice," said Mrs. Armstrong. "He believed in being that way up until the end."
Services were scheduled for 11 a.m. today at Hartley Miller Funeral Home in the 7500 block of Harford Road in Parkville. Burial will be in Dulaney Valley Cemetery.
In addition to his wife, survivors include a daughter, Karen Kintop of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.
Pub date: 8/31/98