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Mark D. Metzger, worked with young offenders

He had headed Baltimore County police's JOINS program

By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

3:40 PM EDT, April 18, 2014

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Mark D. Metzger, who was director of youth initiatives for the Baltimore County Police Department for more than 30 years and was recognized for his work with juvenile delinquents and their families, died April 9 of lung cancer at his Stoney Beach home in Anne Arundel County. He was 65.

"Dr. Metzger served the citizens of Baltimore County for over 32 years. He was a dedicated and outstanding leader who impacted the quality of life for many families," Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson said in a statement.

"The legacy that he leaves behind is commendable and will continue to serve the youth of Baltimore County for many years to come," said Chief Johnson.

Mark David Metzger was born in Greenville, Mich., and was raised there and in Kalamazoo. After graduating in 1968 from Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1972 from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.

In 1974, he earned a master's degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University in East Lansing. In 2003, he earned his Ph.D. in education with a focus on organizational change from George Washington University.

Dr. Metzger, who was not a Baltimore County police officer, began his career with the department in 1976, and three years later became a juvenile felony coordinator, whose assignments ranged from counselor to human services associate and youth initiatives manager.

He instituted several youth-related activities, including the Youth Summer Camp (which evolved into the Youth Leadership Academy), Sunday in the Park, the Tough Love program, the Childhood Advisory Council, and the Children and Youth Council

Dr. Metzger was one of six who joined the Juvenile Offenders in Need of Supervision program — which is also known as JOINS — established in 1976 by Patricia A. Hanges, who was Baltimore County's first female police major.

"There was a lot of federal money lying around at the time for nontraditional police programs, and Mark was one of the first civilian employees I hired. He had a brilliant mind and knew how to write grants," recalled Major Hanges, who retired from the department in 1982.

"Plus, not everyone can blend into the police world, but Mark did because he was outgoing and had a great personality," she said. "And he never changed."

The philosophy of JOINS is based on two guiding principles: youthful offenders are held accountable for what they have done; and their atonement for their actions must be swift, constructive and complete.

"You just can't lock up these kids and be mean to them. No. 1, they have no idea what unconditional love is, and you have to teach them that," said Major Hanges.

Dr. Metzger later headed the program, which earned national acclaim for its innovative approach in reducing juvenile delinquency and has been emulated by other police departments.

Under JOINS, if first-time juvenile offenders younger than 18 admit to minor crimes and agree to enter into the 90-day program, they will have no police record after they complete the program, so long as the victim agrees.

Dr. Metzger told The Baltimore Sun in 2010 that 92 percent of juveniles who successfully completed the program in 2009 had not committed a crime one year later, which was an increase from 3.2 percent from 2008.

Components of the program include curfews, community service hours, essays, apology letters and restitution to victims, drug treatment, counseling, and decision-making and anger management classes.

If a juvenile delinquent declines direct restitution, they can be given work assignments that include cleaning a school, a nursing home or a graveyard.

"The philosophy is, kids grow best when they're in an environment where they're held accountable for what they do," Dr. Metzger told The Sun in a 1998 interview. "It's almost a mentoring relationship — we're going to guide these kids through a variety of opportunities to learn."

Col. M. Kim Ward, who is assigned to the Baltimore County Police Department's Community Resources Bureau, worked alongside Dr. Metzger for years.

"Mark was a beautiful person who served the youth of Baltimore County and their families for many years. He impacted many lives over the span of his career. His death is not only a loss to his family but his police family," said Colonel Ward.

"He was well-versed on issues surrounding delinquency and the pathways to prevent delinquency, and he made a difference through counseling, education, outreach and policy," she said. "He was passionate about working with young people and their families."

Colonel Ward said Dr. Metzger understood the path to delinquency, which could include such things as shoplifting, fighting or vandalizing someone's yard.

"He helped them get through it and come out on the other side. And he also realized that some would become violent offenders, but he still wanted them to know that they would be held accountable," she said.

"His method was helping kids understand what they had done, whether it was destroying an old lady's yard or robbing a 7-Eleven," said Colonel Ward. "And he knew what their parents were going through because they didn't want their kid to have a record."

Colonel Ward said Dr. Metzger had "excellent relationships with outside parties, judges and lawyers."

"He could collaborate and bring people together. He was a person who always had a lot of vision," she said. "This is a hard loss. Mark always got it and knew how to make it happen."

Dr. Metzger lectured widely at schools and was a frequent presenter at Baltimore County Police Department in-service training sessions. He also was a member of the board of First Step, formerly the Community Counseling Resource Center.

Because of failing health, Dr. Metzger retired from the department at the end of last month.

Dr. Metzger enjoyed powerboating and living on the water at Stoney Beach and Ocean City. He also was a college football fan.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church, 4414 Frankford Ave.

He is survived by his wife of 24 years, Anne E. Kerr, who is director of operations for computer software company Fiserv; a daughter, Sean C. Amereihn of Eldersburg; a brother, Dan Metzger of Santa Fe, N.M.; and a grandson.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com