Leonard V. Santivasci, 70, highly decorated police officer

February 26, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Leonard V. Santivasci, a retired Eastern District patrolman who during an 18-year career suffered 19 injuries and received 43 official commendations and two Bronze Stars, died Tuesday of pneumonia at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. The Dundalk resident was 70.

It was a fractured kneecap suffered during a 1972 arrest that finally brought the Eastern District patrolman's spectacular career to a conclusion with his retirement in 1975.

In 1971, the year that he shared honors as The Sun's Policeman of the Year with his partner, Patrolman Robert E. Cohen, the pair handled 352 cases, including three homicides, 32 holdups and 134 narcotics arrests.

Their arrests also included three escapees from a South Carolina prison and a major narcotics trafficker. They also seized $150,000 in heroin and cocaine in a raid.

Mr. Santivasci joined the police force in 1957 after serving as a petty officer in the Navy's Mid-Atlantic fleet.

He began his career in the Northeastern District and transferred to the Eastern District in 1959, where he worked until he retired.

It was while serving in the Navy that he met Mr. Cohen, his future partner. The two lost contact with each other after returning to Baltimore, but were later paired while working together in the Eastern District.

"I personally wrote the recommendation to the Sunpapers for them," said Bishop L. Robinson, who was then captain of the Eastern District and is now acting secretary of the state's Department of Juvenile Justice.

"They were incredible. They had a way of determining why crime was going up in the district and who was involved. They both have left a legacy of camaraderie, loyalty and courage," he said yesterday.

"We got along well with the people in the neighborhood because they trusted us," said Mr. Cohen, who retired from the department in 1985, and is now chief of security at the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse in Baltimore.

"He made lots of friends because he was dedicated and he gave people a fair shake. He was always professional and all business," he said.

Reflecting on their years together, Mr. Cohen added, "We spent more time together than with our families and got banged up over the years, but we loved our work."

Mr. Santivasci earned one Bronze Star, one of the highest awards given by the department, for saving the life of a 4-year-old boy who drank methadone after confusing it with a glass of orange juice. He successfully revived the child with closed heart massage after the boy had stopped breathing.

His other Bronze Star was for arresting a man charged with 30 shootings and a robbery.

Mr. Santivasci joined the security detail at the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse in 1977 and was promoted to chief of security in 1989. He retired a second time in 1992.

He was a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, the Lions Democratic Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Post 38 in Dundalk.

Born and reared in Baltimore, he was a 1944 graduate of Patterson High School.

He was a communicant of Our Lady of Hope Roman Catholic Church, where he was an usher for 42 years. A Mass of Christian burial was offered at the church yesterday .

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, the former Henrietta J. Bielecki; two sons, Leonard J. Santivasci of Norfolk and Jerome W. Santivasci of Baltimore; a daughter, Deborah Brown of Fallston; four brothers, John Santivasci of Virginia Beach, Va., Anthony Santivasci of North Richland Hills, Texas, and Victor Santivasci and William Santivasci, both of Baltimore; and six grandchildren.

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