After more than 10 years as a secretary at the State's Attorney's Office, Linda D. Simpson wanted to find a better job in law enforcement.
With her graduation yesterday from the Baltimore City Police Academy, Officer Simpson, 36, fulfilled her dream.
"I joined the police force because, after being a secretary for so many years, I wanted to advance my career. I needed more money and more of a challenge," the Baltimore native said as her 16-year-old son, Omar, proudly stood by. "It took me 36 years, but I did it."
Officer Simpson and 35 other men and women joined the ranks of the police department yesterday, after six months of academy training.
As more than 200 friends and relatives watched, the new officers recited the city's law enforcement oath and accepted graduation certificates from Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier in a ceremony at police headquarters.
But before distributing the certificates and congratulatory handshakes, Commissioner Frazier warned the graduates and their families that difficult times lie ahead.
"These young officers are going to be seeing things they have not dreamed of before," he said. "They will have many emotions, and they will bring home tales that no one could have imagined. From the families, I ask that you listen and understand that this is a real different kind of job."
Although the graduates spent a month of their training in the field, many echoed the commissioner's warning.
"I'm a little nervous, but I'm also eager to get out there and do the job," said Officer Gordon Schluderberg, who will be working in the Northeast District. "It's like being the backup quarterback. We've been on the bench training for the past six months, and now we're being put in to play. Let's see how it goes."
"They have been subjected to actual police work all along," said Sgt. Steve D. Cothern, an adviser to the class. "We wanted to be sure they would make it all the way, and we believe they will."
Of the four other women who entered the academy with Officer Simpson, only two joined her at graduation; two of the 35 men who entered with the class failed to complete the training. That's a typical attrition rate, according to Sergeant Cothern.
Officer Simpson also expressed some concern as she begins her assignment in the Northwest District -- the area west of Pimlico Race Course and north of Gwynns Falls Parkway, which includes some of the city's wealthier and poorer neighborhoods. But she said the "difficult" training has prepared her well.
Meanwhile, in the Simpson home, Omar said that his mother's move from the state's attorney's office to the police department has not been bad. But it already has begun to shake things up. "I can't do as much as I used to do," he said. "It's gotten a lot stricter around the house."