Max D. Waite III took his first ride in a patrol car with his father when he was 8. And no matter how hard his dad tried to talk him out of it, Max knew what he wanted to do with his life.
So, wearing a crisp white shirt, blue slacks and a shiny new badge, Baltimore County Police Officer Max Waite will join 38 other newly minted officers Monday in his first day on patrol after six months at the county police academy.
"I can't wait to get out and do my job," said Officer Waite, 22, whose father, Joe, retired from the Woodlawn precinct in 1991 after 21 years on the job. "It's been a long time coming. When I was 8, my father took me on my first ride-along and let me play with the siren. Going up the road from that time on, I knew I never wanted to do anything else."
That decision didn't make Joe Waite happy.
"I'm really proud of him, even though I never wanted him to be a policeman," said the elder Waite at his son's graduation Thursday night. "Policing, it's a good occupation, but you don't want your kids to go into it. You want to protect your kids and your family from everything you've seen. But, I'm still proud of him all the same."
The 39 new Baltimore County officers (two additional recruits were trained for the county Sheriff's Department and four for the Annapolis City Police) are a welcome addition to precincts short of manpower after three years of budget cutbacks.
Along with the recruits, the department is unveiling 100 new police cars -- the first new cruisers in three years.
County Executive Roger B. Hayden, whose election year budget has increased police spending, commended the new officers and spoke of a bigger and better police force for the future.
After a class of more than 70 recruits graduates in September, the department "will have more uniformed police patrolling the streets then ever in the county's history," Mr. Hayden said. "We want our precinct officers to be able to readily respond to the community's needs."
Despite a little nervousness, the new officers say they're ready.
Their ranks include the oldest rookie in the county's history, 51-year old Donald B. Clinedinst, who found himself competing with recruits less than half his age.
"I'm very pleased," he said. "Anyone who goes through the six-month training program, goes through a great variety of new experiences."
Officer Robert Reed Jr. is ready to tackle the streets of Towson, with a little help from his grandmother.
"She didn't forget," said Officer Reed, 21, who said he knew he was destined to be a police officer when he was 8. "I got a rosary from my grandmother. I really wanted it."
Officer Nancy Franklin, 24, who spent seven years in retailing before, said she's glad the rigorous training -- with intensive physical workouts and long hours studying criminal and constitutional law -- is over.
Her biggest concern as she patrols the streets of Towson: "I'm a little nervous about getting lost."
That worries Officer Darren L. Calhoun, too.
"I'm a little nervous about getting to the call on time," said the new Cockeysville patrolman. "I have a fear of driving by the location and knowing that people saw you drive by."
But his father, a retired police sergeant, is worried about more important things.
"Things have changed a lot since I started in 1971," said Glenn Calhoun Jr., now a child support investigator for Carroll County. "It's much more dangerous now, and we didn't have the proliferation of drugs that we have today.
"I'll tell you what I tell him every day," Mr. Calhoun said. "Watch your front, watch your back, common sense and good judgment. You can't go wrong."