Northern District Commander

Northern District Commander (July 10, 2011)

The Northern District's new commander introduced herself to the public at a community picnic Sunday and said in an interview that one of her most immediate initiatives is to crack down on violence on the border of the Northern and her old district, the Northwest.

"Part of our current strategy is to attack that border," said Maj. Sabrina Tapp-Harper, 43, who was previously second in command of the Northwest District. And she said to do it, she's not afraid to cross the district line — especially with the backing of her old boss, Johnny Delgado, commander of the Northwest.

"I've actually given my operations office the green light to go into the Northwest. That's kind of unique," Tapp-Harper said.

Tapp-Harper, a Coldspring-Newtown resident, succeeds now-Lt. Maj. Ross Buzzuro, who has been named a regional commander for the Baltimore City Police Department. Buzzuro now oversees both the Northern and Northwest, among other districts, Tapp-Harper said.


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Tapp-Harper said she and Delgado are concerned about violence on the Northern-Northwest line, especially in the Pimlico Road-Reisterstown Road area. In the most severe example, Anthony Carr, 52, died June 21 in a double shooting in the 2900 block of Edgecombe Circle South.

No arrests have been made in Carr's death, Tapp-Harper said.

Because of her close working relationship with Delgado as his former deputy in the Northwest, "it's almost a perfect situation," since both now are commanders of their respective districts, she said.

Tapp-Harper said sharing resources makes sense because Northern has an operations unit (Northwest does not) and has about 45 more officers than Northwest does, as well as a lower homicide rate than Northwest.

Tapp-Harper also said she hopes to cut the rate of robberies and burglaries by as much as 32 percent in the Northern, as the Northwest District has done in the past year.

And she said she plans to increase police presence in Charles Village

"I would like to put some kind of foot patrol in the Charles Village area," she said, adding that she is looking for a strategic place.

Tapp-Harper is the first black commander of the Northern, but said she hasn't given that much thought.

"I'm just humbled and honored to be here," Tapp-Harper said. She said she requested a community picnic to "say hello and talk about my goals."

Another priority for Tapp-Harper is a historical one. She said she hopes to restore a crumbling police ledger, circa 1900, that was discovered in the attic of the original Northern District on Keswick Road.

The ledger sits in her office, where a sign on the wall says, "Faith makes things possible, not easy."

Tapp-Harper said she has endured a "challenging" start to her new job. Officer Teresa Rigby fell 25 feet from the JFX while trying to help a disabled motorist the day after Tapp-Harper arrived. Rigby is home and talking and walking, with all of her faculties, Tapp-Harper said.

About 75 people, including members of the Northern District Community Council, a citizens advisory group, turned out to meet the major. Also there were several city officials, including City Council President Bernard C. 'Jack' Young and council members Sharon Green Middleton and Mary Pat Clarke.

And there were community representatives from Roland Springs, Hampden, Remington, Waverly, Pen Lucy and Mid-Govans. The Rev. Tom Harris came from Govans Presbyterian Church. The presidents of both of the community associations in Remington were represented.

Many were saddened to lose the well-liked Buzzuro, who was at the Northern for more than five years. But they warmed quickly to the genial Tapp-Harper, who joined the police department as a police cadet at age 19 and used to work in the Northern as a communications officer.

She came highly recommended — including by Robert Nowlin, 72, a community leader in Pen Lucy, who has known her since she was a child and was a reference for her when she applied to the department.

"She's the type of person you'd like to see advance," said Nowlin, sitting under a tent in front of the district building at 2201 West Cold Spring Lane during the picnic.

As police officers cooked hamburgers and hot dogs, Tapp-Harper strolled around, making acquaintances.

"Have I met you?" she asked Bill Miller, of Roland Springs, a member of the Northern District council and the former executive director of the Greater Homewood Community Corp.

Miller said he hoped that a new commander would spur more citizen participation in the district's affairs.

"It's gone down in the past year, but then, so has the crime rate," he said.

But Miller's biggest hope was that Tapp-Harper would be around for a long time, as Buzzuro was after years in which the Northern had a reputation for high turnover among its commanders.

"We had too much of a revolving door," he said.

Married with three children, Tapp-Harper is a former police spokeswoman and was detailed for a year as a researcher to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, based in Alexandria, Va. She is an adjunct professor at Baltimore City Community College and has been published in Police Chief magazine.

She has a Bachelor Arts degree in Criminal Justice from Coppin State University and a Master's Degree in Applied Behavioral Science from Johns Hopkins University.

Another priority for Tapp-Harper is a historical one. She said she hopes to restore a crumbling police ledger, circa 1900, that was discovered in the attic of the original Northern District on Keswick Road.

The ledger sits in her office, where a sign on the wall says, "Faith makes things possible, not easy."