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Veteran cop retires

Sgt. Knight served Hagerstown 24 years

Sgt. Knight served Hagerstown 24 years

November 15, 2005|By PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

After a bullet grazed his forehead three years ago, Hagerstown Police Department Sgt. George Knight said he realized the face of crime was changing on the city's streets.

As Knight closed the book on 24 years with the department Monday, he said he hopes that he's passed on some "good traits, some good policing" to the next generation of officers.

"It's a faster pace than what it used to be. The city is growing in population. The face of the criminal element is changing ... At times it's more dangerous," the 50-year-old Smithsburg man said.

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Knight, who retired Monday as a patrol shift supervisor, worked as a Washington County Narcotics Task Force member, Criminal Investigation Division detective, Special Response Team member and Western Maryland Police Academy firearms instructor during his tenure. He has plans to work in private security in Martinsburg, W.Va.

"It's time to move on," he said.

Knight refused to retire after his close call three years ago, his brother, Washington County Sheriff's Department Lt. Mark Knight said.

Mark Knight said he tried to convince his brother to retire at the time, but he didn't listen.

"He wanted to go back to the scene and he did," Mark Knight said.

On Sept. 17, 2002, at about 4 a.m., George Knight was patrolling the streets when he saw two men whom he believed were making a drug deal standing on the corner of Charles and Boward streets. When he stopped to speak with them, they ran, according to reports.

While chasing them, Knight said he heard a shot, saw a muzzle blast and took cover.

"From the time the shot was fired and I returned fire, I was in survival mode," he said.

He said it wasn't until shortly afterward that he discovered he was bleeding, that a bullet had grazed his head.

"I survived that based upon a lot of luck and my training, but ultimately I think I just had a little angel on my shoulder," he said.

Lt. Rick Johnson, who was supervisor of the criminal investigation division at the time of the shooting, said the investigation into the incident is still open.

George Knight said, "It's something I think about every day. Every day I put on this uniform, I think about it."

Knight said the shooting made him realize that crime was changing in the city. Before that, police dealt mainly with "local individuals" and not paroled convicts or gang members, which are becoming a more prevalent problem.

"It changed my attitude toward the new type of policing in the city," he said. The criminals, he said, are now "younger, more brazen."

But the close call didn't keep him from his work.

Sgt. Tim Wolford said Knight set "a very good example. George came back to work almost immediately."

K-9 Officer Patty Shantz said she'll miss Knight.

He was "tough, but fair," she said. "The big thing with him is he wants to hear you ... He wants to hear you doing your special checks, making your traffic stops. He wants to hear you out on the street."

George Knight said he'll miss the camaraderie among police and "the times I've been able to work side-by-side with my brother."

George Knight said his most-rewarding assignments at the department were at the detective bureau and the Narcotics Task Force. He said his investigations into three domestic homicides in the early 1990s were among his most-fulfilling police work.

Wolford said George Knight "brings structure to the shift. We'll really miss that."

Knight served in the Marines for four years, including two years as a drill sergeant, before joining the police department, he said.

His family moved to Smithsburg from Glen Burnie, Md., when he was 17 years old. He played football at Smithsburg High School and later coached junior varsity football there.

Knight said one of the players he coached, Tom Kelley, became a police officer at the department.

"To watch him advance and become a police officer here was pretty rewarding," he said.

Knight said he feels the city is in good hands with the current force. He extended one simple piece of advice to them: "Protect each other, which is first and foremost, so they go home every night."

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