Moving up the ranks as a family

Police: Father and son will make history when they are both promoted to sergeant in Balto. County.

March 19, 2004|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Retired from the Baltimore Police Department's storied homicide unit, Jay C. Landsman Sr. is enjoying phase two of his law enforcement career as a corporal in the Baltimore County police force. He is quick with a smile, still a prince of the wisecrack.

Jay C. Landsman Jr. is a second-generation homicide detective, and he is also a corporal in the county Police Department. He is a no-nonsense law enforcement professional, with a military-style haircut and ramrod-straight carriage.

The elder Landsman says he is proud that he inspired the Richard Belzer character, sarcastic joker Detective John Munch, on television's Homicide: Life on the Street. His son is content to tinker with cars in his spare time. Today, father and son are being promoted to sergeant -- the first time that has happened in the 129-year history of the county police force.

The younger Landsman enjoys that his father's legend precedes him. And, he draws upon an even richer family history in law enforcement.

"When I was a kid, I always loved hearing my father, my grandfather, talk about being policemen," he said. "I realize my father is tops, but I can't be in his shadow. There is lots I can learn from him though."

Chief Terrence B. Sheridan will do the honors at the ceremony today in Timonium, where seven other officers also will be promoted. And it hasn't been lost on the chief that the Landsmans span two generations and two different eras in police work and style.

"The father came up in a different period, the son grew up vicariously in his father's time, which is a good thing when you blend it with today's technology of computers, DNA testing and other advancements," Sheridan said.

Landsman, 52, served on the city force from 1972 to 1994, the highlight being his nine-year stint in the homicide unit. A year of that duty, and his gallows humor, were captured in the book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.

To Joseph F. Murphy, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, there is a place in his heart for the senior Landsman and others Murphy worked with during his days as a city prosecutor.

"First, I am delighted, as a resident of Baltimore County, that there are not one but two Landsmans on my police department," Murphy said. "But I also miss the passing of a generation of homicide detectives like Landsman who were passionate about their work, creative and tenacious, but colorful in a way you don't see today."

Police work has been part of the Landsman family since 1936, when Jay Sr.'s father, Raymond, joined the city force. Four other relatives have served or are on the city or county police departments. A fifth, Officer Janet Morales, assigned to the county's North Point District, will be in the crowd today when her father and brother receive their sergeant's badges.

Sheridan probably doesn't have to worry about being the elder Landsman's straight man during the ceremony today.

"Jay the senior does not miss an opportunity to put someone back on their heels with his humor," Sheridan said.

When the elder Landsman becomes a sergeant, he will be transferred to the department's crime lab. His son hopes to continue working as a supervisor in the homicide unit and later in the patrol division.

The younger Landsman, 28, joined the force in 1994 and has worked assignments in patrol and burglary. He will hold rank over one his father's former colleagues on the former city homicide squad, Detective Gary T. Childs, now in the county's homicide unit.

Along with Childs, Landsman Sr. retired from the city in 1994 during controversial reassignments of the department's top homicide detectives. About 20 city officers transferred to the Baltimore County department.

"I retired from the city on June 2 and decided on a long sabbatical," Landsman said. "I joined the Baltimore County Police Department two days later."

Childs, too, enjoys his former partner's humor.

"He's the kind of detective who can break the ice in a very serious situation, getting the best out of other officers, especially the younger ones," Childs said. "As great as technology is in police work, a computer can't interrogate a murder suspect, a cell phone can't offer solid, convincing testimony on the stand. That's where cops like Jay Landsman stand out. "

Landsman laughs that his son could be Childs' supervisor.

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