James Stevens Sr., 79, longtime city police officer

February 14, 2005|By Michael Stroh | Michael Stroh,SUN STAFF

James F. Stevens Sr., a retired Baltimore City police officer who became the first to have his daughter join the force, died of a heart attack Feb. 6 at Mercy Hospital. The Brooklyn Park resident was 79.

In April 1969, Mr. Stevens' 21-year-old daughter, Patricia Loveless, graduated from the Baltimore Police Academy.

While there had been a history of fathers and sons in the Police Department, an Evening Sun article on Mrs. Loveless the day after her graduation noted that it was thought to be "the first time for the department that a daughter has followed in the footsteps of her father."

At the time, Mr. Stevens was a 43-year-old patrolman in the Southern District, and women were a relative rarity on the force.

"He was so proud of her," recalled Mr. Stevens' wife, the former Theresa Bottari. A few years later, one of Mr. Stevens' sons, James Jr., also joined the department.

Mr. Stevens was born on Patterson Park Avenue and left school early to work in the shipyards, working for companies including Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. and Rustless Iron and Steel Corp., later Armco Steel.

On the advice of an uncle, a patrolman in the old Northwest Annex, Mr. Stevens entered the police academy, graduating in 1951. He was assigned to the Southern District and spent the next two decades pounding the pavement around Cross Street Market, Cherry Hill and Pigtown.

Although he would eventually be assigned a patrol car, Mr. Stevens' first love was his foot post, his wife said.

Even on frigid winter nights, Mr. Stevens would methodically rattle merchants' doorknobs to make sure they were locked. To stay warm, he stuffed newspaper under his patrolman's uniform, he wife recalled.

Year after year, Mr. Stevens refused to take tests that could earn him a promotion and the chance to supervise other patrolmen, preferring instead to remain on the street.

Although he was supporting a wife and three children, Mr. Stevens occasionally tried to help people in need. Family members recalled him coming home one winter day to retrieve clothes from their son's bedroom so he could give them to a poor Brooklyn family living in an unheated house.

A beefy man who taught wrestling to other officers, Mr. Stevens had a reputation for being inordinately quiet and gentle. "I don't think I ever saw him lose his temper," said Ronald S. Savage, a retired Baltimore City police commander who began his career patrolling Cherry Hill with Mr. Stevens in the late 1960s.

This fact was brought home vividly one night when Mr. Savage and Mr. Stevens responded to the report of a rape in a wooded area of Cherry Hill.

When they arrived at the scene and spotted a man they suspected to be the rapist, Mr. Savage said that he immediately drew his gun. "But Jim screamed, `Don't shoot! Don't shoot!'" he recalled.

Although Mr. Stevens hadn't known it at the time, the incident turned out merely to be a man and a woman having an argument.

"Jim knew, based on his experience, that everything isn't always as it seems," said Mr. Savage, who retired in 2000.

In 1972, health troubles forced Mr. Stevens to take a job at police headquarters downtown. He retired in 1988.

Although he liked to shoot recreationally with other officers, Mr. Stevens remained proud that he had never drawn his service pistol during his 37-year career.

When his daughter once asked him how that was possible, Mr. Stevens simply gestured toward his swollen biceps.

"He would rather talk somebody into going to jail," said Mrs. Loveless, of Annapolis, who retired in 2000 after attaining the rank of lieutenant.

Services were held Thursday.

In addition to his daughter and wife of 59 years, Mr. Stevens is survived by two sons, James F. Stevens Jr. of Westminster and Robert F. Stevens of Grasonville; a sister, Charlotte Elliott of Glen Burnie; a brother, Edward Stefankiewicz of Brooklyn Park; three grandsons and five great-grandchildren.

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