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Northern District Commander promoted

Major Ross Buzzuro will become area commander; deputy major for Northwest District Sabrina Tapp-Harper will replace him

Larry Perl, lperl@patuxent.com

12:45 PM EDT, June 16, 2011

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Northern District Commander Major Ross Buzzuro has been promoted to area commander, one of only two in the Baltimore City police department.

Now, commanders of half of the police department's nine districts will report to Buzzuro, 44, who is now a lieutenant colonel. It's not known whether the Northern District will be one of the districts that will report to Buzzuro, a police spokesman said.

Tapped to replace Buzzuro as Northern District Commander is Sabrina Tapp-Harper, also 44, deputy major of the Northwest District, which borders the Northern District and includes the Mount Washington area.

Tapp-Harper is not the first woman to lead the Northern District. It was not immediately known whether she she is the first black to lead the district, the spokesman said.

She knows her way around the Northern District, having worked in community relations for the district in the late 1990s, according to Officer Doug Gibson, a community liaison for the Northern District.

Ronald Bailey, a volunteer for and a cousin of City Councilman Bill Henry, said he has known Tapp-Harper since the 1990s, when as a community relations officer assigned to west Baltrimore she helped him set up a camp for kids there.The two have kept touch over the years, Bailey said.

"She is very community-oriented and proactive," Bailey said. "She enjoys partnerships."

Buzzuro, commander of the Northern District since July of 2007, started with the police department as a cadet in 1985 an d rose to become ethics commander of the department's Internal Investigationw Section befor becoming Northern District commander.

Tapp-Harper joined the department as a cadet in 1987. Her past posts have included acting commander of the Juvenile Detention Section. She was also detailed for a time to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, in Alexandria, Va., where she did research, department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. Tapp-Harper is an active member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, or NOBLE, Guglielmi said.

Community leaders have complained that the position of commander of the Northern District is too much of a revolving door.

The news about Buzzuro caught at least one community leader by surprise.

"We get good people in the Northern District and they go other places," said Cindy Leahy, president of the Keswick Improvement Association and an aide to City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.

"He's wonderful," Leahy said of Buzzuro. She added that she doesn't know Tapp-Harper.

"It's a loss and an unknown," Leahy said.

She was also surprised that Deputy Major Richard Worley, second in command in the Northern District, was not promoted to district commander.

"We think an awful lot of Worley too," she said.

Worley is expected to stay on as second in command of the Northern District, Gibson said.

Councilman Henry said he was happy for Buzzuro's promotion but "tremendously sad" to lose him as the district commander.

Also saddened was Leslie Wietscher, a member of the Evesham Park Neighborhood Association and of the York Road Partnership and an aide to Henry.

"I'm really happy for Ross. He certainly deserves it," Wietscher said. "We had a good working relationship."

Clarke too said she was happy for Buzzuro.

"We think we trained him well," she said. "We hope he remembers his loyalties to Northern District."

"I was surprised and little sad," said Karen DeCamp, president of the York Road Partnership and director of neighborhood programs for the Greater Homewood Community Corp. She said Buzzuro was commander for too long to fit the revolving-door mold, but that it was still a loss for north Baltimore neighborhoods.

"It means it's going to be very important for the new commander to reach out and really get to know the communities," said DeCamp, of Radnor-Winston. But she also noted that Gibson and Officer Jon Walter are still the direct point people as community liaisons in the district.

"Jon and Doug need to stay right where they are," she said.