Police cadets home in on area

Md. program's grads often choose Howard as place to work

Howard County

November 22, 2001|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Powder-blue Howard County police uniforms dominated the sixth Maryland Police Corps graduation ceremony yesterday in Linthicum.

The Howard County Police Department has attracted 22 of the 138 graduates since the program began in 1997, making it the second-most popular destination for Police Corps graduates. Eighty of the graduates wear Baltimore uniforms.

Yesterday's swearing-in of Howard officers sounded like a full choir. When other cadets took their oaths, they had to go solo or in a quartet or quintet. Of the 23 graduates, 12 are bound for Howard, five for Baltimore, four for Hagerstown and one each for Hyattsville and Prince George's County.

"We have a lot of roots there," Howard Police Chief Wayne Livesay said about the Maryland Police Corps. "They lean to us for direction."

The Justice Department-funded program tries to attract college graduates to police work by reimbursing them up to $30,000 of college tuition in exchange for four years of service in a participating Maryland police department. After the 24-week Police Corps program, graduates spend another few weeks in field training with their departments.

Though other states have modeled their programs on the Maryland Police Corps, it has hit some bumps during the past four years.

Three previous Police Corps classes fell drastically short of the 30-person target size, with the last class dipping to 10 students. The seventh class, which begins in January, likely will be similar in size to this year's group of 23, program officials said.

The number of cadets in each class depends on the number of vacancies in each participating police department. Another consideration is matching cadets with departments.

"We don't force anyone to go anywhere, so some of the smaller departments that would like to work with Police Corps don't get the chance," said Joe Sviatko, spokesman for the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, which administers the Police Corps.

Still, any police department in Maryland is welcome to participate, he said.

Despite the many police departments involved in the Police Corps, the two-hour ceremony yesterday remained largely a Howard County show.

A Howard County police unit presented the colors, and Howard Cpl. Lawrence Teixeira gave the invocation and benediction. Richard T. Schnell, assistant director of operations for the Maryland Police Corps, is a former Howard officer.

Jennifer Reidy, the class valedictorian (who also won awards for physical fitness and academic achievement), and Craig Ream, the class's sharpest shooter, were clad in Howard uniforms.

New Howard County Police Officer Jennifer Cree summed up why so many cadets sought employment in Howard: "It just felt like home."

The Virginia Beach, Va., native said she learned about the Maryland Police Corps from a Howard County police recruiter she met at a career fair at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Sgt. John Superson, who supervises recruiting and background investigations of all Howard police recruits, said the department rigorously recruits college students. Superson said the Police Corps is a natural choice for those who want to become Howard County officers because the department requires at least 60 hours of college credit. "We've had a great success rate with Police Corps graduates," he said.

Howard County is such a staunch supporter of the program that Livesay said he will leave a full-time instructor from his department in the program in January, though the next Police Corps class will have no Howard cadets.

The temporary absence of Howard cadets from the Police Corps can be attributed to the lack of vacancies in the department, Livesay said. Two 12-person classes have graduated in the past month, and another 12 will graduate from the county academy in April. But when vacancies arise again in the department, Livesay said, he likely will return to the Police Corps.

"Howard County recognizes the high caliber and potential of the Police Corps recruits, who ultimately serve their communities," said Robert W. Weinhold Jr., director of governmental affairs for the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

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