TV host addresses new officers

Graduation: A chance encounter in New York after Sept. 11 brings Mark McEwen home to Anne Arundel County to speak to police graduates.

April 04, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Police academy graduations around here usually feature keynote speeches by law enforcement types, such as the police chief or the director of a police training program.

So it was more than a little unusual to see a television celebrity imparting words of wisdom to the Anne Arundel County Police Department's 60th recruit class this week.

Mark McEwen, who hosts A&E's Live by Request and was a regular on CBS morning shows for 16 years, befriended county police officers in October 2001, when he spotted four of their squad cars parked outside the CBS studios in New York City.

McEwen did a double take because he grew up in Anne Arundel County. He is a graduate of Arundel High School, where he was county wrestling champion.

"I always tell people that I live in New York City, but this is where I'm from," McEwen said during the graduation ceremony Wednesday night at Broadneck High School. (He opened the speech by saying, "Go Arundel Wildcats. Can I say that at Broadneck?")

After the Sept. 11 attacks, county police joined dozens of other departments - most from larger cities such as Los Angeles and Philadelphia - to help the New York City Police Department with routine patrols and the World Trade Center recovery effort. Anne Arundel County sent four tours, each of about 20 officers, for four days at a time.

"There ain't nothing you don't see in New York City, but one thing I had never seen was an Anne Arundel County police cruiser," McEwen said of the chance encounter.

When he saw the cars lined up in front of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue, he said he rushed in to leave a note at the front desk.

It said: "Guys, I am so proud you are here. Will you be on TV tomorrow?"

Wearing their dress blues and spit-shined shoes, the officers appeared outside the CBS studios at 7:35 a.m. Clearly exuberant at the chance to interview police officers from his old neighborhood, McEwen affectionately half-embraced Lt. Randy Jones during the short segment.

"He seemed really proud that his hometown was there supporting the recovery effort," Jones said. "It was a little boost for us to have him so interested."

McEwen was so supportive of the department that Lt. Pam Davis, commander of the training academy, wondered if he might speak at the 60th recruit class graduation.

Davis e-mailed Kirk McEwen, a disc jockey at WIYY-FM, to ask if he could get in touch with his brother about the request.

To her surprise, Mark McEwen called a few weeks later.

"He said, `This is civilian Mark McEwen,'" she remembered. "I was shocked - and grateful - that he said he'd do this."

The 23 newly minted police officers remained stoical throughout the graduation exercise, but most broke out in wide smiles when McEwen enthusiastically shook their hands just before they received their badges.

Jason C. Parrotte, 26, said McEwen's presence made graduation "that much more rewarding."

Brock A. Tapp, 25, said McEwen had spoken to his eighth-grade class at MacArthur Middle School years ago and that the recruit class was "pretty excited he wanted to talk at our graduation."

McEwen said giving the keynote address was an honor. He ended it by making one small request of them, which he joked had been ordered by his brother Kirk:

"If you ever see a McEwen going 60 in a 55 ... "

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