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Chief Moose brings message of diversity

October 04, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Diversity, not the Washington-area sniper attacks, was the focus Friday of a visit to Berkeley County by former Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, who gained fame as the lead police spokesman during the sniper investigation a year ago.

Moose, author of "Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the Serial Sniper," visited each of the county's three high schools and Valley View Elementary School during the daylong trip. He signed copies of his book, shook hands and posed for photographs.

A request from school officials brought Moose to the county, where he said he enjoyed addressing students.

"You want to try to help with young people," Moose said. "You're never sure if you can hit the mark. But you gotta try."

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If students took home one message, he hoped it was a realization that individuality is important.

"We all are struggling to find out who we are and how we fit," he said. "I think a lot of young people really wrestle with that, and so they're always making all these changes and they're always mimicking somebody because they think that's what everybody wants, when if they just would be themselves it would be OK."

Moose started the day at Hedgesville High School, where he fielded questions from a few of the 75 or so students in attendance.

One student asked what can be done to promote diversity, especially in areas like Hedgesville that are primarily white.

Moose, 50, stressed that diversity is not limited to skin color. A group of all-white people would still be considered diverse because everyone has different opinions, he said.

Women are not always given equal opportunities, he said. A police department receives awards if 20 percent of its employees are women, yet women make up slightly more than half of the population, he said.

Emily Edens, 17, a senior at Hedgesville High, said she especially enjoyed hearing Moose discuss racial issues.

"Racial (situations) aren't necessarily black and white. I never thought of it that way," she said.

Travis Dufour, 15, said he enjoyed hearing Moose's opinions on gun control. Dufour, a freshman, said he had anticipated getting a gun after graduating, but now realizes that may not be wise.

During the sniper attacks, Dufour said, he watched Fox news whenever Moose came on with an update. He enjoyed meeting a man he's only known from television.

Because Dufour does not read biographies and does not have a copy of Moose's book, he asked Moose to sign a piece of notebook paper.

"It was really cool because he's a really nice guy," Dufour said.

On the subject of guns, Moose said he hopes more people will decide to either get rid of their handguns or not buy one. Military assault rifles should be banned from the public, he said.

One student asked Moose why he did not wait until his term as police chief ended to write his book. To publish his book and make a profit from it, Moose had to resign.

Moose answered by saying the sniper attacks reinforced a fact: "Tomorrow is not promised to any of us." Whether he would have been alive when his term as chief ended could not be known, he said.

Moose made little mention of the sniper attacks during his presentation.

Moose said he would like to again work as a police chief somewhere, but if it does not work out it may be God's plan. He said he may end up working as a teacher, janitor or Wal-Mart greeter - an idea that caused some in the audience to laugh.

Writing the book, after a painful, difficult inner struggle, seemed to be the right decision, Moose said. People can decide for themselves whether they want to buy the book, he said.

"I just felt like I needed to tell the story of the cooperation and the teamwork. Anybody that lived through this can write whatever they want to write about it," he said after visiting Musselman High School.

Writing of his childhood in the South and experiences with racism was "therapeutic," Moose said. Recounting the sniper attacks was more difficult.

"The stuff about the sniper, it was a lot harder because in some ways it seems like it's still happening or unfolding even though it's over," he said. "It's a good memory that we got them but going back through it all, it's that same roller coaster."

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