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Town gets new officer

January 14, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - Even before Smithsburg's newest member of the local police department begins his studies at the Western Maryland Police Academy in February, James Bowers has been getting his feet wet.

"I was hired Nov. 4 and I've been working undercover since then," Bowers said. "It has been very interesting."

Because of problems with underage drinking, drugs and stolen property in the Smithsburg area, Police Chief Michael Potter made the case for a third officer and decided to put him to work right away.

"Once he is officially on duty in August, he won't be able to work undercover effectively anymore," Potter said.

A lifelong dream to work in law enforcement came true for Bowers, 26, of Maugansville, when he answered a classified advertisement in local newspapers and got the job.

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"I tried to join the Maryland State Police a while back but I had no law enforcement experience," said the 1994 graduate of Boonsboro High School and father of two.

Growing up in Knoxville and raised by his grandparents, James and Elaine Coulter, Bowers worked five years as a machine operator and then as a supervisor processing milk at Morningstar Foods in Frederick, Md.

"I like the challenge of doing something different every day," Bowers said. "And I am striving to do more with my life than I have been doing."

Bowers said he is looking forward to starting his formal law enforcement training on Feb. 3, when a new class begins at the police academy, which is conducted at Hagerstown City Police headquarters.

Bowers will join Potter, a veteran Maryland State Police trooper, and Officer Mike Neuland when he is a full-fledged police officer at the end of his academy courses.

"I think my youth will be an advantage rather than a drawback," Bowers said. "I am open to new ideas."

Some of those ideas have already surfaced as Bowers talked about working with youth and finding worthwhile things for them to do when not in school or working.

"I think a team effort can help curb the problems we and all other communities are having in those areas," Bowers said.

Bowers said he believes the key to success in small-town police work is the concept of community policing.

"I want to know the community well, its people and its problems," he said.

Potter said he was encouraged by Bowers' enthusiasm and affinity for the job.

"Smithsburg is the fastest-growing community in Washington County," Potter said. "We had more than 400 more calls last year than we did in 2001."

When Bowers goes full time, Potter said he will be able to provide seven-day-a-week police coverage to Smithsburg, something he is unable to do now.

More information on the Smithsburg Police Department can be obtained by calling 301-824-3500.

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