Jon Walter, a longtime face of local law enforcement as a Northern District community liaison officer, will retire Friday - and start a new job Monday as Johns Hopkins University's outreach officer.
Jon Walter, a longtime face of local law enforcement as a Northern District community liaison officer, retired Sept. 28 and started a new job Monday, Oct. 1 as Johns Hopkins University's outreach officer.
Walter, 47, succeeds Carrie Bennett, 45, as Hopkins' student community liaison at the Homewood campus.
Bennett, who since 2005 has helped students become good neighbors as they transition from required dormitory living in their freshman and sophomore years to living in surrounding communities, has moved back to Carlisle, Pa., to care for her father, who has early dementia.
Bennett, a former Hopkins police sergeant, said she created the student community liaison position with the blessing of the Hopkins Office of Student Life in 2005 because class sizes were doubling and housing on campus was at a premium, causing more students to move off campus.
"There were no written rules about how you should behave off campus," Bennett said. "We were basically hands off."
That put the onus on police, leading to record student arrests, based on neighbors' complaints. But students said they were doing nothing wrong.
"I knew there had to be a middle ground," Bennett said.
Bennett left the campus police force to start the new post in the Office of Student Life and was well known for going into communities like Oakenshawe and Charles Village to keep alleys clean and quiet down late-night student parties. She also started JH-U-Turn, a program to reduce waste by encouraging students to donate clothes, furniture and other belongings at the end of the school year for sale to benefit the Johns Hopkins Neighborhood Fund and the United Way of Central Maryland.
Walter, who is moving from Hamilton to Harford County, doesn't see his duties as being very different.
"The job is carrying on what she did," Walter said. "We try to keep peace in the community."
The transition shouldn't be difficult.
"I've done a lot of this work in my police job," he said.
Bennett said she is sad to leave, but that the job "needs a new set of eyes," and that Walter already is well-versed in town-gown issues.
Walter has been a city police officer for 22 years, the past 17 in Community Relations. He was a city patrol officer in 1994 when he was the only applicant for an opening as an outreach officer in the crime-prone Pen Lucy neighborhood on the border of Guilford.
"I wanted to get into something like that, a little more hands on," he said.
Some residents in mostly black Pen Lucy complained at a public meeting, he said -and one resident asked, "What is this white officer going to do for our black community?"
"They didn't see me as a good fit," Walter said.
But he stayed in Pen Lucy exclusively from 1994 to 1999, until his job expanded.
"Jon turned out to be not only an outstanding officer in this community, but he made a lot of friends here," said Robert Nowlin, a longtime resident of Pen Lucy and a community activist, who fought to rid the area of drug dealers.
"I don't think any black officer could have done better," Nowlin said.
He called Walter's retirement "a real loss."
Walter has worked closely with Doug Gibson, another community liaison officer, for about 16 years, and they've become familiar faces in north Baltimore, attending community meetings, keeping order at festivals such as HonFest, and working with the Northern District Community Council, a citizens advisory group.
They've also participated in the police department's Shop With a Cop program, a shopping spree that is sponsored by Wal-Mart. Walter says that's been one of the most rewarding aspects of his job.
Walter said he received a plaque on Sept. 19 during a Northern District Community Council meeting.
Walter said that in recent months he and Gibson have seen their roles diminished as liaisons, and have been on patrol more, due to manpower shortages.
"He's been great," Gibson said. "I'm sad to see him go."
But Walters said, "I'm not going far."