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Police veteran passing skills to new officers

March 21, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

Editor's Note: This is the fourth story in a week-long series running during National Women's History Month, recognizing women in the Tri-State area who make a difference in their communities.

An FBI Academy assignment to write her own obituary gave Margaret Kline an opportunity to look ahead to years of life she hadn't yet lived to get the whole picture.

"It was a very telling experience," said the 28-year veteran of the Hagerstown Police Department. "One thing that I was sure about in that obituary was that I had written a history of HPD."

Travel and some volunteer work are penciled in for the future, but writing the Hagerstown Police Department history is a sure thing, Kline said.

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"Policing has changed tremendously over the years and I want to document that," Kline said. That along with the names, faces and contributions of police officers through the years would become part of her book.

Now 46 and a lieutenant/shift commander, Kline is just two years away from being able to retire, but is not sure if she will do so.

Having spent more than half of her life as a police officer, Kline has come a long way since she became the first woman with actual police duties in the department.

"As shift commander, I work with three sergeants and 15 patrol officers," Kline said. "I oversee the foot patrol downtown, the HotSpots officers and I serve as the Jonathan Street sector manager."

A fourth-generation Hagerstonian, Kline said she is people-oriented and enjoys having contact with other residents. "I've lived on the same street for 42 years so I'm quite territorial," she said.

As for her work with the HotSpots program, Kline said she doesn't want to give that up. "I want to be there to help it as it moves toward self-sufficiency," Kline said.

The HotSpots area is a 2-square-mile section of the city that has been targeted by a state crime-fighting program since 1997.

"I see so much violence now," Kline said, examining the changes she has witnessed in her years in uniform. "Disagreements used to be settled with a fistfight, now everyone has weapons."

A graduate of North Hagerstown High School, Kline graduated from Hagerstown Junior College, now Hagerstown Community College, and the University of Baltimore with degrees in criminal justice. Her master's degree in human services was heavy in psychology as well as gerontology, the study of older people.

"I'm a dinosaur," Kline said. Most of the current class - the 35th - at the Western Maryland Police Academy hadn't been born when she graduated with the first academy class.

While some women, including some younger female officers, juggle family and career, Kline made a choice long ago not to have children.

"I came from a different generation from what we're living in now and I need to realize that," she said.

Kline said she took full advantage of the financial help available for her higher education. "My educational experience has served me well," Kline said. "It gave me the tools to make a difference in my community."

As leader of a shift now, Kline said she is keenly aware of her responsibility to pass along her skills and training to those in her command.

"We have a very young department now," Kline said. "But I'm trying to develop the people on my shift. ... after all, they are our replacements for the future of this department."

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