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Top trooper born to be a cop

February 15, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - As a little girl, Debra S. "Debbie" Hamby knew she would one day be a police officer.

What Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Hamby did not know back then was that she'd be voted by her peers as the best trooper in her barrack and have the chance to be named Maryland State Police's top cop for the year.

Maryland State Police officials at the Hagerstown barrack named Hamby Trooper of the Year for 2004. Although Hamby, 37, had been named Trooper of the Month locally several times, she said she was not expecting the annual distinction.

"I heard from a number of my co-workers that I was doing a good job or would probably get it (the award), but I was still surprised," the Washington County native and 1985 South Hagerstown High School graduate said.

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According to a state police news release, Hamby is the first woman to earn the honor from the Hagerstown barrack. She currently is the only woman trooper there.

Hamby said she does not think about her job or the award in the context of gender.

"I don't think it plays a part in it at all," she said.

Hamby, who began her service with the state police nearly two decades ago, was assigned to the Westminster barrack following her stint at the police academy, police said. Within a few years she was transferred to the Hagerstown barrack where she has served as both a patrol officer and a D.A.R.E. officer.

Lt. Gregory Johnston, commander of the Hagerstown barrack, said Hamby's defining characteristic is her work ethic.

"She comes in and does the job every day," Johnston said. "That's all we ask for, a good day's work. She did that for us all year."

Hamby said being in law enforcement is the only job she ever seriously wanted, a desire that began when she was in grade school.

"I can honestly say that from the earliest I remember, I was saying I was going to be a police officer. I have no idea why," Hamby said.

Hamby said her family has been supportive of her career choice and was proud of the recent achievement. She said her father, Ronald Hamby, died in 2003.

"He's the one more than anybody I'd like to have seen face-to-face to tell them," she said. "I'd have loved to see his face."

Hamby said she still loves the job because each day is "never the same."

"You can go from stopping a vehicle to handling a burglary to stopping an armed robbery ... to going to the scene of an accident," she said.

Hamby is one of 13 troopers from across the state who will compete for the statewide Trooper of the Year Award. That competition, to be conducted later this year, will include written, oral, driving and firearms qualification tests, among others, state police said.

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