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Walking the beat with God

February 23, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Arnold B. Cerezo says he puts a premium on serving and protecting - both physically and spiritually.

Cerezo is both a Washington County Sheriff's Department deputy and an assistant pastor at Hagerstown Family Church. He's also a student finishing his bachelor's degree in Bible studies.

Cerezo, 33, is married and the father of five children between the ages of 2 months and 15 years.

A native of San Diego, Cerezo moved to Frederick County, Md., when he was 8 years old. His father was in the U.S. Navy and was transferred to Camp David, he said.

He graduated from Frederick High School in 1989 and spent about six years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

After that, he worked at several "odds-and-ends" jobs in the Frederick area. In 1996, he took a job as a technician analyzing crime scene evidence for the Frederick Police Department.

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His interest in law enforcement was piqued on that job, and he pursued a position with the police department and enrolled in its training academy in 1998.

At the end of his field training, unsure whether his Christian beliefs meshed with his desire to be an officer, Cerezo said he resigned from his position.

"I was battling between, 'Can a Christian be a cop?' It wasn't the department, it was more me," Cerezo said. "You just have to be confrontational sometimes as a deputy. People expect pastors to be compassionate and loving."

Soon after his resignation, Cerezo enrolled in Lancaster (Pa.) Bible College to pursue a degree in Bible studies, which he will earn in May upon completion of two transferable courses from Hagerstown Community College. He also began working random jobs.

At about the same time, he said, Glenn Yeager, pastor of Hagerstown Family Church, took him under his wing.

"Once he received the calling from the Lord, he was willing to take the difficult road of being a bi-vocational pastor," Yeager said.

Yeager said Cerezo has been dedicated to the church, which has about 40 members. Yeager said Cerezo's wife, Monica Cerezo, is active with the church, and the two run its outreach program.

Cerezo said the move to become active in the church was not as much a decision as it was "obeying a call."

Over time, Cerezo said, he found there were similarities between the roles of pastor and police officer.

After a conversation in 2001 with Michael Palladino, a sheriff's department deputy with whom he attended the training academy, Cerezo said he was convinced that giving law enforcement another try was the right thing to do.

"Even though you're a police officer, you still have to care for people - whether it's a victim or a suspect," he said. "I enjoy both jobs because I enjoy serving people."

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