Police salute 50 years

History: Past and present members of the county force mark the beginning of a year of anniversary events.

January 30, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

For two hours yesterday, most of the first floor of the county's George Howard Building in Ellicott City became a living scrapbook of the Howard County Police Department's 50-year history.

Six former Howard police chiefs joined Chief Wayne Livesay to reminisce about years past and officially begin the department's yearlong anniversary celebration.

The county's first police chief, Russell Moxley, 95, sat in the front row of the Banneker Room during the ceremony, which included an awards presentation and a video of old police photos and memorabilia.

The audience rose to its feet for Howard County's first chief when Moxley stepped forward to accept his commemorative badge - with the assistance of a cane and several relatives.

"There were lots of hugs and some tears, too," said police spokeswoman and anniversary committee member Sherry Llewellyn about the ceremony. "It was nice to have so many old friends together in the same room."

County Executive James N. Robey, Livesay's predecessor as chief, read a county proclamation and reflected on the department's evolution.

"They've given me two minutes to reflect on 50 years," he quipped.

The department began with four officers and one police car in 1952 - the same year a 1-year-old Livesay moved to Howard County. When Robey joined the department in 1966, he said, it had 40 officers and two police radios that barely worked.

The department now has 360 officers, and laptop computers in all squad cars.

After the ceremony, past and present officers, their families and county government employees filed into the building lobby to stroll past a display of old weapons and a selection of former county police uniforms.

The first female police uniform - a peacock-blue minidress with red trim - drew the most attention. Styled after a flight-attendant's uniform, the dress looked fit for Star Trek.

Lee Hajek, who wore the uniform in 1969, joked that she couldn't believe how mini it was when she pulled it out of her closet to lend to the anniversary committee.

Hajek retired from the department in 1984 as a sergeant. She said she plans to attend all the anniversary events this year.

Police will gather again in the spring for the dedication of a memorial courtyard and garden, a family picnic, Law Enforcement Celebration Day and the Howard County Police Retired Officers Association Golf Tournament.

Capt. Gary Gardner, chairman of the anniversary committee, said the ceremony "got the ball rolling" on the rest of the anniversary year.

Officers are authorized to wear anniversary badges, and civilian employees can wear anniversary pins.

Livesay fastened the first anniversary badge and lapel pin to the longest-tenured Howard County Police Department employees during the ceremony yesterday.

Capt. Howard Ferguson, who will retire tomorrow after 36 years, and Joan Cook, who has no retirement plans despite having worked for eight police chiefs in 34 years, were honored for their service to the department.

The two friends and co-workers hugged after the ceremony and congratulated each other.

"I've been here 30 years, and I thought I was a long-timer," Livesay said. "It was an honor to recognize people who have been there even longer than me."

Several people told Cook, 51, "you look exactly like you did when you started." She started at age 17.

Ferguson said he had enjoyed his time with the Police Department and will spend his "retirement" working as a financial planner in Columbia. The Carroll County resident was born and raised in Howard County and attended Howard High School.

"I'll never leave here, really," Ferguson said of Howard County. "This is home to me."

Livesay said he tries to keep in touch with former officers whenever he can.

"Unfortunately, it seems like we only get together at a sad event, like a funeral," he said. "It's nice to get together for a good event like this anniversary."

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