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Buskirk gets back on track

February 20, 2002

Buskirk gets back on track



Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of occasional Sunday stories about eight local recruits in the Western Maryland Police Training Academy. Leading up to graduation in June, The Herald-Mail will introduce readers to these recruits and the tasks they face on the road to earning badges.

By JULIE E. GREENE
julieg@herald-mail.com


During the three years Timothy "T.J." Buskirk was a pharmacy assistant, he got tired of seeing what his teachers call "scumbags" come in with fake or altered drug prescriptions.

Experiencing the "bad side" of the job put Buskirk back on the career track he originally desired - to be a police officer.

As one of 17 recruits in the Western Maryland Police Training Academy class, Buskirk's training included a class on narcotics forfeiture last Monday conducted by two Hagerstown Police Department sergeants who used to be members of the Washington County Narcotics Task Force.

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"My opinion is the most important crime that you're going to deal with is going to be a drug violation," said Sgt. Kevin Simmers, who taught the class with Sgt. Fred Wolford.

Simmers told the recruits that many of the people they will lock up will be because of crimes stemming from alcohol and/or drug use. Drug addiction often leads to other crimes because addicts need to feed their habit, he said.

He has seen "people crawling on the floor looking for a crumb of crack that may have fallen off a pipe."

"In this dope world there is nothing etched in stone," Simmers said.

Whatever police officers think will happen, won't, and whatever they don't think will happen, will, he said.

They will see teenagers selling drugs and addicts working for drug dealers just so they can keep part of the product for their own habit, he said.

As a member of the four-person Hancock Police Department, Buskirk, 23, of Hancock, will deal with local use and cultivation of marijuana and the transport of the prescription medicine OxyContin from Morgan County, W.Va., and heroin from Pennsylvania, Hancock Police Chief Donald Gossage said.

Buskirk also will handle crimes such as drunken driving, underage drinking, vandalism and nuisance crimes that, while small, are important to the community, Gossage said.

Gossage said Buskirk is already familiarizing himself with computer software the department uses and riding with future co-workers. This will cut down on the amount of field training Buskirk will need after graduation in June.

Back at the academy, Buskirk already has a leg up on his fellow recruits when it comes to identifying drugs and prescription fraud. Simmers took advantage of that last Monday by having Buskirk share his experiences with his classmates.

Buskirk said he doesn't just want to "bust" these criminals. He wants to help them turn their life around.

"He's probably ruining his family with his drug situation," Buskirk said.

While Buskirk knows he can't give every suspect the individual counseling he'd prefer, he wants to at least encourage them to get drug counseling.

In class, the recruits learned more about police procedure and testing drugs.

They did field tests for marijuana or crack cocaine, watching the vial of pink liquid turn to blue to confirm it is one of the illegal drugs.

When a teacher asked if any of the recruits ever used marijuana, four or five raised their hands.

To ensure they will all be able to identify the odor of marijuana on the street, at some point in their training the recruits will smell burning marijuana, said Hagerstown Police Sgt. Rick Reynolds, the academy's director.

Last week, they learned the different types of drug crimes and purchasing habits and heard tales from Simmers and Wolford about the various body cavities in which suspects have hidden drugs.

They were cautioned to be careful when checking suspected drugs because they could be laced with another narcotic.

Besides technical lessons, the recruits are learning how to bond with police officers, including the ribbings they are often subjected to and occasionally shoot back at their superiors.

Buskirk was teased Monday about his ankle socks and that he was one of a few recruits who had already become ill during P.T., which is what the recruits call physical training.

Each recruit has to run 1.5 miles in less than 12 minutes, which Buskirk has already done, and complete a circuit test.

The circuit test was what hit his stomach hard, Buskirk said. Recruits must run 24 laps around a gym, stopping every three laps to do calisthenics such as pushups, jumping jacks and sit-ups.

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