Community organizes benefit for officer

Fund-raiser to help pay for cancer treatments

March 22, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

For 35 years, city Police Officer David Bowen has watched over South Baltimore, building friendship and trust with residents and business owners while policing the beat.

The relationships have helped him solve hundreds of crimes. Now, the area is repaying the favor, snapping up every available ticket to a fund-raiser tomorrow to help Bowen pay for expensive treatments for lung cancer.

"He is more than just a badge," said Cherise Cooper, 33, a cashier at the Garden Restaurant in the 1500 block of Light St. "He knew everything going on."

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Bowen, 55, joined the force in 1967 because he thought it would be "an interesting job, the type of work where you mostly help people," he says.

Bowen -- known to residents and officers as "The Colonel" -- soon began policing an area that stretched from the Hanover Street bridge to the 1500 block of Light. And he began to build lasting relationships with residents, stopping by for dinner, sipping coffee, talking to people on their stoops and visiting bars for more than just cursory inspections to get to know the patrons.

The effort helped, often in subtle ways -- earning a nod from an elderly lady that led him to a stash of drugs, or a patron in a crowded bar walking up and whispering a tip. "They trusted me," Bowen said.

Southern District Sgt. Doug Baumgarten recalled a fight a few years ago between police officers and a local resident. When Bowen arrived, the resident stopped scuffling and put his hands behind his back out of respect for the veteran officer.

Eighteen months ago, Bowen's lung cancer was diagnosed. In January, the illness worsened, requiring more grueling treatments and forcing him to leave his beat, which he was reluctant to do.

He then took an administrative job at the district station, where he tries to work six hours a day.

Several weeks ago, fellow officers in the Southern District and a friend organized the benefit that is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Councill's Caterers & Restaurant at 1110 E. Patapsco Ave.

They printed 300 tickets that sold out in little more than a week, at $18 each. There also is a 70-person waiting list for residents still hoping to attend, said Pat Warczynski, 46, the friend who helped organize the event.

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