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Former trooper sharing policing skills in Bosnia

March 15, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

Former trooper sharing policing skills in Bosnia

It's a rather big career move - going from checking Washington County District Court visitors for contraband to a United Nations assignment training civilian police officers in Bosnia.

But that's what Bob Sipes has recently done.

A retired Maryland State Police officer and former Hancock Police chief, Sipes is currently in Bosnia using all that accumulated knowledge in his new career.

Just before he retired from state police, Sipes, now 55, said he got a communique about the UN program in Bosnia directed at training civilian police officers.

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Tom Keckler, who also retired from the Maryland State Police, got the same communique, applied and has been over there for two years.

"Last May, Keckler called me here at work from a motel on the Adriatic Sea,'' Sipes said. "He gave me information and I applied, too."

Sipes sent in his resume and on Dec. 20, he got a letter from a company called DynCorp asking if he was still interested. He was.

Sipes left Hagerstown for Fort Worth, Texas, on Jan. 26 for five days of training. His wife Kim went along that far.

After that, Sipes flew to Zagreb, Bosnia, and then to Sarajevo for more training.

The program is called International Police Monitor, according to DynCorp's Lynn Holland, a veteran of policing in Bosnia and Haiti.

"We have a U.S. State Department contract with the United Nations to do this work in Bosnia," Holland said.

In a nutshell, Holland said Sipes and others like him are advising civilian police officers who suddenly find themselves policing in a democratic society.

Before he left, Sipes gave an example of a man who owns a home in Bosnia but moves to Croatia, renting the house to another man.

That renter goes on vacation and when the owner returns to the house and finds the tenant gone, he takes everything out of the house. When the renter returns, he calls local police, who say there is nothing he can do.

Sipes said he and others work with police in situations like that to show them they can do something. And then they show them how to do it.

"This will be a big challenge for him," Holland said. "Bob's work will be affecting an entire nation."

Sipes retired from the state police in the early 1990s and then was the Hancock police chief for two years. Most recently, he worked at Washington County District Court at the metal detectors near the front door.

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