Police class hears warning amid joy

Norris tells graduates more vigilance needed to stop terrorism attacks

September 25, 2001|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Graduations are meant to be celebrations.

But there was also a warning amid the happiness at yesterday's Baltimore Police Department's graduation. Because of recent terrorist attacks, 35 new officers were told to establish stronger community ties, to gather information more aggressively and be ready for other assaults.

"This is unlike any other conflict we've seen before," Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris told the graduates during the ceremony at the War Memorial Building on North Gay Street. "You have to do [your jobs] better now than you did before."

Officers will have to be especially vigilant about suspicious activity because the fight against terrorism will require a steady stream of intelligence, Norris said.

"You have to build relationships with the neighborhood better than before," he said. "Don't be embarrassed. ... If you see something that raises your suspicions, call your supervisor."

Mayor Martin O'Malley, who has made crime-fighting a top priority, called the graduates "the first line of America's defense."

The graduates, who underwent 36 weeks of training, said they were well aware their jobs had changed since the attacks of Sept. 11. They join a nearly 3,200-officer department, which is at full strength.

"You need to be more aware of things, to look out for [suspicious] trucks, photocopied registration tags, anything that's out of the ordinary," said Officer Theresa A. Scott. "Things aren't the way they were, and you have to feel more responsibility for this city."

Even as they positioned themselves for photographs and exchanged hugs, some family members said they couldn't help but worry about the officers' safety.

"Oh, baby girl, not a police officer," Angela Daniels remembered thinking when her only child, Aleacia L. Hill, announced she wanted to join the force.

Still, as she watched her beaming daughter, 24, pose for pictures with other graduates, Daniels couldn't help but smile.

"I'll always be proud of her," she said. "I just have to put it in God's hands now."

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