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State police veteran keeps track of troopers' calls

May 03, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - After 30 years working for Maryland State Police, Arlene Hammond said she usually can recognize most troopers' voices over the radio console she operates at the Hagerstown barrack.

"First, I listen for the voice and then I look up the car number," Hammond said as she juggled several cruisers and troopers on a recent afternoon on the job.

Last month, Hammond was given a plaque for her 30 years of service. Now a police communications operator II, Hammond accepted the honor and promptly got back to work.

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Born Arlene Kohl in Baltimore City, she said she once seriously considered becoming a Maryland State Police trooper but abandoned that to stay in Hagerstown.

She met her future husband, Terry Hammond, in Hagerstown in 1984, and together they raised a family.

The Hammond family includes children ages 16, 18 and 20. Terry Hammond works for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

On Dec. 11, 1972, Hammond started her working career as a clerical assistant in Baltimore in probation and parole. Two years later, she transferred to the Maryland State Police Central Crime Records bureau in Pikesville as a clerk typist.

She upgraded to a teletypewriter operator in Pikesville in 1976, and two years later she transferred to the Hagerstown barrack. In another two years, she was promoted to police communications operator II and has tended to calls for assistance in Washington County ever since.

"Juggling calls is not as tough as it seems," Hammond said. "The hard part is listening to a chase and worrying that they'll be all right."

Usually, there are four troopers working on a shift, she said.

"I have to listen to a lot of channels, but I try to keep them straight in my head," she said.

For years, Hammond was responsible for keeping a written log of everything she did, every call that was handled and every response from the troopers. Now everything is computerized, but she still has to enter all that information as each call comes in.

Over the years, she has had to contend with bad snowstorms, police pursuits, serious motor vehicle accidents and many perplexing questions from citizens.

She handles them all as best she can while always keeping track of troopers' whereabouts, no matter where they are in the county.

"It's never dull and it has been very rewarding," Hammond said. "I've met a variety of people and I enjoy working with them."

A bus breakdown brought country singer Jeannie C. Riley to the barrack once. Hammond said she also met comedian Bob Hope at the Dual Highway 7-Eleven, where he was getting coffee.

Memorable incidents include a 100-car pileup on the interstate west of Hagerstown that affected traffic for hours in Washington County, a prisoner hanging himself in the cell at the barrack and numerous accidents during which troopers were hurt or killed.

Now 49, Hammond said she is glad she made the choices she did. But there is a downside to her long tenure in Hagerstown.

"I have been here longer than some of these troopers have been breathing," Hammond said.

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