Norris due back to start community service hours

Ex-police commissioner also gets talk-radio gig

August 10, 2005|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Call it the evolution of Edward T. Norris: Top police officer. Convicted felon. And now, radio talk-show guest turned host.

Norris is returning on Monday to the city that he once ruled as police commissioner to begin his 500 hours of community service. This is the last stage of the sentence he received after pleading guilty to federal public corruption and tax charges stemming from his time at the helm of the city force.

He spent six months in a federal prison in Atlanta and is finishing up six months on home detention in his Florida home. When he returns to Baltimore next week, he said, he expects to do court-ordered community service work with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, a city-based human services organization.

But he has also lined up a paying job. After guest-starring on WHFS 105.7's Big O & Dukes show by telephone from his Tampa home since February, Norris was offered a full-time position as a host. The show's new name is Ed Norris with Big O & Dukes, WHFS announced yesterday.

Norris said yesterday that he is excited to return to finish his community service and dive into Baltimore's talk-radio scene. He said he expects to squeeze in his community service around the show, which airs during the week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"I've been serving communities my whole life; I'm not dreading this," Norris said of his court-mandated service. "Despite what happened, I love Baltimore. I have a lot of friends there. I'm really looking forward to coming back."

Earlier this year, a federal judge denied Norris' request to move his community service requirement from Baltimore to his home in Tampa.

Norris said he hopes for the kind of turnaround in fortunes that happened to G. Gordon Liddy, the Watergate burglar turned conservative radio talk-show host.

Norris will be part of a show that touches upon current events. He will be the go-to guy for an insider perspective on crime and law enforcement stories, and has taken shots at his former employer, the city Police Department. When the department debuted a gun buyback program this year, Norris equated the attempted remedy to gun violence as a "face-lift for a cancer patient."

"He's loved in this city," said Dave Labrozzi, vice president of programming for Baltimore for WHFS's owner, Infinity Broadcasting. "Just based on listener response and e-mail response, it's obvious that Ed is one of the more compelling aspects of the show."

Another reason Infinity gave Norris a full-time gig in Baltimore: name-recognition. Norris is still known as the New York officer who came to Baltimore and reduced the killings. He still has his supporters within the department's ranks.

The Police Department declined to comment on Norris' expected return. The office of Mayor Martin O'Malley, who hired Norris in 2000, also had no comment. The office of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who had hired Norris as superintendent of the Maryland State Police in early 2003, only to see him indicted later that year, also declined to comment.

It remains to be seen how Norris will be embraced in Baltimore. Some indication might come from at least two parties that will be thrown in his honor. The head of the Fraternal Order of Police is leading plans to throw a "Welcome Back, Eddie" party, open to the public, at a West Baltimore bar Aug. 20. Lt. Frederick V. Roussey, the FOP president, said the event isn't an officially sponsored union event, but he and other officers will be there to support Norris.

"Eddie Norris is a friend of mine. ... He's a good honest man," Roussey said. "We expect a lot of cops to be there. He's still loved by these guys here. The guy was a straight-up honest cop, and he's a good cop and he got railroaded by the feds. He brought pride back to this Police Department."

It was not clear yesterday if the party - organized by civilians - would be considered a violation of Police Department regulations. Rule 1, Section 5 states: "Members of the department shall refrain from making personal contacts with persons of questionable character."

Roussey said having a "welcome home" event for Norris is appropriate.

"If he was ... robbing banks, or made a career of being a criminal, then it would be inappropriate," Roussey said. "He's not that."

The second party, on Aug. 25, will be thrown by his new employer at Power Plant Live, dubbed "WHFS Ed Norris Homecoming."

Norris concedes that his employment prospects are not bright. He's a third-generation police officer from New York City with a wealth of law enforcement experience, but he has no realistic chance of ever wearing a badge again. He said companies that specialize in homeland security and electronic technology have contacted him. Work as a consultant is a possibility, he said.

For now, radio will have to suffice. Norris, who has a wife and young son, said WHFS gave him a contract, but he and Labrozzi declined to discuss the terms of his employment.

"Should you never work again if you have a problem in your life?" Norris said yesterday. "Should you never be employed again?"

As part of his community service, Norris said he expects to do unspecified work for Catholic Charities, a city-based human services organization, and other similar local groups, but details haven't been completed.

A Catholic Charities spokeswoman, Kerrie Burch-DeLuca, confirmed yesterday that Norris will be volunteering at the organization, but couldn't offer more details.

"To be honest, we probably won't be giving too much information on that," Burch-DeLuca said. She said the organization wants to respect the privacy of the people they serve so that Norris' time there doesn't become a "media event."

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