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Reality for rookie trooper is more pleasant than TV portrayals

March 02, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Being a rookie cop is not such a bad thing and certainly does not resemble television and movies, which show new guys enduring abusive treatment, Gregg Lantz said.

In fact, the Hagerstown resident and recent police academy graduate said he is enjoying his experience as the newest member of the patrol division of Maryland State Police's Rockville barrack.

Lantz, 24, celebrated his commencement from the Maryland State Police Academy on Feb. 6 and was patrolling highways in the Rockville area three days later. Although Lantz admitted his interest lies in other areas of policing, such as police aviation, he said working patrol has quickly grown on him.

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"Since I got here, I really started to like it," Lantz said. "It just blows my mind that people will do stupid things right in front of the police."

Despite what viewers see in police dramas, Lantz said the barrack staff has been very helpful in his short time there.

"Actually, everyone's welcomed me very well," he said. "They have you do some of the jobs other people don't want, but you understand and respect that."

Lantz, a native of Myersville, Md., and a Middletown (Md.) High School graduate, said he worried he might not have the chance to go to the police academy in 2003. A tight budget led to the cancellation of the year's early session.

"I thought the academy was going to start in January," he said. "Then I got a call on New Year's Eve that it wasn't going to happen."

A few months later, Lantz got the call to go to what he described as the most regimented experience of his life.

The approximately six months at the state police academy is "like Harvard and Parris Island mixed together," he said. "It's pretty bad."

Lantz said the general day consisted of physical training at 5:30 a.m., followed by about nine hours of classes and then chores, with a five-minute window for phone calls before lights out.

"You don't have contact," he said. "You don't get the newspaper, you don't watch TV."

Lantz, formerly a firefighter in Prince George's County, was able to break away for a weekend in October to marry his high school sweetheart, Trish. Although there was no time for a full honeymoon, Lantz said his new wife was "very supportive" during his stint at the academy.

"She's been great about the whole thing," he said.

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