The former commissioner entered a minimum-security prison last summer near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He was evacuated to Mississippi during hurricane season and finished his time in Atlanta, where he was released Jan. 19. He grew a long beard and kept his head shaved. Many in Atlanta came to believe he was a biker and crystal meth dealer. "I just let them think that," he says.
What can't be seen on the radio or through a phone interview is that Norris lost 40 pounds. His black T-shirt clings to his biceps. In prison, he did curls by attaching vegetable oil cans to a broomstick, forming a barbell. He also used bags of rice as weights.
After his indictment, Norris told his wife they could live anywhere. He always liked Florida, and the couple had friends here. After a visit, she decided she liked South Tampa, a collection of upscale neighborhoods near downtown and the water. They bought for $282,500.
He says he wants to remain anonymous here. "I just tell people I'm an HBO actor who's a former cop," he says.
These days, he says, he gets up early. Not like in prison when he rose at 5 a.m., but still before 7. He makes coffee, then packs a sandwich inside Jack's Ninja Turtles lunchbox - usually cream cheese and peanut butter, or peanut butter and jelly. He watches cartoons with Jack (often Maggie and the Ferocious Beast) and sends the boy to school at 7:45 a.m. Norris can't give him a ride because of the house arrest.
Days are spent talking on the phone or searching for jobs. At night, he cooks dinner for the family; a friend in prison taught him. One recent night's menu included linguini with pesto and sauteed shrimp. "We try to keep it healthy - chicken and shrimp," he says.
Norris and his family live off his $50,000-a-year pension from New York City, just enough to cover the bills. He says he drained his retirement accounts to pay for his legal defense and make ends meet. His wife recently started work in real estate but has yet to sell a house.
"I've got to figure out," Norris says, "what I'm going to do for the next 30 years of my life."
After he completes his house arrest this summer, he will return to Baltimore for his required 500 hours of community service; a federal judge recently denied his request to have the work moved to Tampa.
"If I've got to clean alleys, I'll clean alleys, but I'd like to put my skills to use," he says.
Norris still pays attention to Baltimore and Maryland; he is willing to offer free advice to acting Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm.
"I wouldn't discard all the New York City strategies. ... It works. Don't get mired in the politics. Take advantage of the fact that he won't have to deal with the racial politics that a white chief would have to," he says.
Yet Norris - the highest-ranking employee to work for both the governor and the mayor - won't say whom he would favor in the 2006 gubernatorial election, assuming the two square off.
He says the biggest difference between the two is that O'Malley's advisers were more likely to "push back" at nay-sayers, whereas Ehrlich supports "staying above the fray."
"I kind of like both of them," Norris says. "Without naming names, I really like the people Ehrlich has immediately around him better. ... I think they're both good leaders. I'm not going to say bad things."
But, he adds, he's not going to say nothing at all.