A Name With Pow!

Anne Arundel's sheriff, whose last name is similar to superhero Batman, may not have a cape, but he locks up criminals with an arsenal of tools

June 03, 2008|By John Woestendiek | John Woestendiek,SUN REPORTER

It started when he was a boy. It didn't matter that he was the son of a state cop. He had a name that could be made fun of - so the other boys, being boys, did just that, often with the accompanying theme song.

Nun-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh BATMAN!

For Ronald S. Bateman, the teasing never really let up. It followed him, off and on, through high school in Annapolis, through training as a cadet, through 23 years with the Anne Arundel County Police Department and three more as chief deputy in the Anne Arundel Sheriff's Office.

But it wasn't until he was running for sheriff in 2006 that the play on his name came into the public eye - thanks to a perpetrator or perpetrators unknown.

The first campaign sign that was hit was a 4-by-6-foot one, posted outside Heroes Bar in Annapolis. The "E" was removed from "Bateman" and replaced with a Batman insignia.

Then the "E" was removed from a Bateman sign on Benfield Boulevard, followed by another on Veterans Highway. As the spree continued, newspapers picked up the "Batman for sheriff" story - and the Democrat's campaign got the kind of publicity money generally can't buy.

Thanks, at least in part, he thinks, to the vandals - the kind of people he normally wouldn't think twice before locking up - Bateman won, by 7,000 votes.

Since taking office, Bateman hasn't started fancying himself a superhero. But there was that one night, at a fundraiser, when he appeared in Batman costume. There is that Batman emblem he sticks on his vehicle during parades. And there are a couple of shelves in his office that are filled with Batman memorabilia.

But Sheriff Ron Bateman is no flamboyant, cape-wearing comic-book superhero - just a by-the-book, straight-arrow, results-oriented third-generation police officer practicing good old-fashioned law enforcement.

ZZZZZAAPPPP!!!

Valentine's Eve, 2008: About 50 people get telephone calls from a woman named Maria, who says she works for "Flowers By Ron." Each is told they have a Valentine's Day gift - flowers, candy, wine, balloons - awaiting delivery.

In nine cases, the recipients confirm they will be home to receive the gifts.

The next day, the deliveries begin in a truck with a large magnetized logo on the side door: "Flowers By Ron, With An Arresting Bouquet."

When the recipients - all of whom were wanted on warrants - opened their doors and identified themselves, the arrests were made:14 by day's end.

Reducing the number of outstanding warrants countywide was one of Bateman's campaign promises, and he's made some headway. There were 13,584 when he took office; it was down to 9,916 by May 1 - and that's with an average of 1,000 new ones issued every month.

The idea for the sting came from one of the office's civilian employees, who, for her protection, Bateman identifies only as Mary T. It was Bateman, though, who came up with the "arresting bouquet" line.

In addition to the stings, the sheriff's office under Bateman has conducted quarterly neighborhood sweeps to round up scofflaws, purged deceased people from the list (more than 500 had died with their warrants outstanding) and worked with judges to rid the list of minor and outdated cases, such as those involving shoplifting at businesses that no longer exist. (Nearly 2,500 of those were removed.)

He's made arrangements for the local newspaper to run a list of wanted people twice a week (at no charge), and his office sends out letters urging those with warrants - the vast majority are for probation violations and failure to appear in court - to turn themselves in to avoid an embarrassing arrest at work.

Every month, he tapes a local access television show, Anne Arundel's Most Wanted, on which representatives of local law enforcement agencies describe fugitives they are seeking.

The show was created by his predecessor, but Bateman says he has tried to "make it a little more exciting." He has taped episodes at the shooting range. He plans to invite crime victims to come on the show, and he's working on getting Anne Arundel County resident and Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak to make an appearance.

The show has led to several arrests, with citizens calling in tips. A personable and outgoing sort, Bateman - who had some previous experience on an Anne Arundel County Police Department show called Neighborhood Beat - makes for a natural TV host. He's relaxed and at ease, which is often more than can be said about his guests.

ZZZZZING!!!!!

May 28, 2008: Michael A. Pristoop, the newly named interim chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department, is making his first appearance on Bateman's show. Like most first-time guests, he's a little uncomfortable in front of the camera.

The director counts down, "Five, four, three, two ..."

Bateman introduces his guest, then informs him that it is customary to start the show with the national anthem. Putting his hand on his heart, he asks Pristoop to lead him in song.

Pristoop is silent and stunned, then meekly asks, "Is that the 'Oh Say Can You See' one?"

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