Katz changes jobs today

Carroll barracks leader to work with state police homeland security bureau

March 18, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Lt. Terry L. Katz has been the commander of the state police Westminster barracks for four years. In a law enforcement career of more than three decades, it's the longest stretch he has spent in a uniform.

Having spent most of his career as an undercover officer - infiltrating the Pagans motorcycle gang or sharing a jail cell with a turncoat biker were two assignments that helped make him a national authority on gangs and domestic terrorism - Katz was more likely to wear jeans, with a Fu Manchu and below-the-shoulder hair.

Now Katz is hanging up his uniform again in favor of civilian clothes. This afternoon, he turns over the keys to the new Westminster barracks commander, Maj. Michael J. Fischer, and returns to intelligence work in the agency's new Homeland Security and Intelligence Bureau.

"It's a daunting task, an amazing challenge," Katz, 55, said of his new assignment. "This is a critical issue at a critical time, and you can't fail. If you fail, people get hurt or die."

As he leaves the command of the Westminster barracks, headquarters for the unit that serves as Carroll County's primary police force, Katz can claim to have initiated several programs, including one in which police worked with liquor stores to reduce the availability of alcohol to minors. In a recent interview, he said he was proud that there has not been a fatality involving an underage drinker in nearly three years.

Those who have worked with him give him high marks.

Carroll School Superintendent Charles I. Ecker said he received "great cooperation" through years that have seen teachers accused of sexual misconduct, missing PTA funds and serious crimes arising from underage drinking parties.

"Whatever problems we had, when we needed him, he was there," Ecker said. "He helped us work through the difficult times, and he made it a lot easier."

Senior Assistant State's Attorney David P. Daggett, said, "We've never had a working relationship like we had with Lieutenant Katz. Whatever we needed, he gave to us."

Katz, a Taylorsville resident for 25 years, called his job as barracks commander "the best assignment I've ever had."

He began his working life as a teacher. While earning a bachelor's degree in education and American history at what now is Towson University in 1970, he had worked as a student teacher at Dunbar High School in Baltimore and hoped to find a job there. But city schools had too many applicants, he recalled.

So his focus shifted from education to law enforcement, and another dream: becoming an FBI agent. The bureau took note of his lack of law enforcement experience.

Knowing that the state police had an intelligence division, Katz joined the academy and graduated in December 1970, then did field training at the Frederick barracks.

Katz first went undercover in 1971, he said, initially working on domestic terrorist groups, which at the time were committing bank robberies in imitation of the Symbionese Liberation Army. His intelligence work also involved drug and auto-theft rings and organized crime.

In 1975, he started infiltrating motorcycle gangs in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Washington. From 1976 to 1981, he infiltrated the Pagans, and he later went undercover with the Phantoms in Southern Maryland. From 1989 to 1991, he was assigned to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Katz developed enough expertise on motorcycle gangs that he twice testified before Congress. Once, while working deep undercover, he had his testimony read by a stand-in. Considered an expert witness on gangs for court testimony, he also has taught the subject to tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from across the country and has instructed Interpol classes overseas. He is a longtime member and a past president of the International Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association.

Maintaining the biker look was so essential to his work that when he married, he wore a short wig to cover his long hair. His wife, Iris Katz, a retired Baltimore County schools speech-language pathologist, said she enjoyed being the wife of the commander of Barrack G. She says she was treated with new respect when he became barracks commander - and the secret was out to neighbors and her co-workers that her husband was a state trooper.

Some of the troopers in Westminster recall being somewhat unsure about Katz before he arrived Feb. 11, 1999. It was a first barracks command for a man whose resume showed little experience with the day-to-day calls for traffic, petty crime, information and other resident needs, recalled 1st Sgt. Dean Richardson.

"He had to look in a book to see how to dress," Richardson recalled, then added: "He really did step up to the plate. He's been an outstanding commander for us."

At a luncheon last week, about 85 civilian police employees and volunteers, prosecutors, school officials, community activists and other courthouse and law enforcement officials praised and roasted Katz.

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