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NRP graduates 51st training class at MEBA school

By CHRIS KNAUSS Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, January 22, 2009 7:17 AM CST

EASTON The Maryland Natural Resources Police recognized the 51st graduating class of their training academy on Friday, Jan. 16.

The graduation ceremony at Calhoon MEBA Engineering School marked the second class of new NRP officers hired since 2002. The last class to graduate from the academy was in January 2007.

The new officers, all of whom have previous law enforcement experience, graduated from a four-month, Monday through Friday training course at the NRP Training Academy in Matapeake. The NRP, which is the enforcement arm of the Department of Natural Resources, is Maryland's oldest state law enforcement agency, getting its start in 1868 as the oyster police. With an authorized strength of 249 officers and a staff of civilian and volunteer personnel, the NRP provides conservation and boating law enforcement duties throughout the state.

The agency's varied services also include homeland security, search and rescue, emergency medical services, education, and information and communications services around the clock. The NRP is the only police force aside from the Maryland State Police that has statewide jurisdiction.

Department of Natural Resources deputy secretary Eric Schwaab attended the ceremony along with NRP superintendent Col. George F. Johnson, NRP deputy superintendent Lt. Col. Alphonso W. Hawkins, Maryland Park Service superintendent Nita Settina, and other NRP and DNR officials. Capt. Robert Davis was the emcee and the Rev. Dartanyon Hines provided the invocation and benediction.

"Although you are few in numbers, you are the chosen few out of many applicants," Johnson said. "We welcome you as a member of the Natural Resources Police family and we look forward to your contributions as you protect Maryland's citizens and preserve its natural resources."

Captain Brian D. Kelley, United States Coast Guard Sector Commander in Baltimore, gave the keynote address. Kelley is responsible for all USCG missions in the northern Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and the National Capitol Region. His duties include leading as the Captain of the Port, Federal Maritime Security Coordinator and Officer in Charge of Marine Inspections.

Kelley talked briefly about his 30 years in uniform, which has included sea travel around the globe.

"I've had tremendous opportunities," he said. "I've been in small boats in 20-foot seas where I truly feared for my life. I've been in the family quarters of the White House where I was afraid to touch anything for fear of my life. But the whole bottom line is, throughout my career, there have been tremendous opportunities. I hope for each one of you, in your long and distinguished career for the state of Maryland, that you find your happy place, which I describe as the place where you are most competent and most comfortable."

Kelley also stressed the importance of safety, professionalism and demeanor.

"We are a country of free men, who do not take lightly to any abuse of power. So please, in your professionalism, remember that your demeanor is most important."

The graduates and their hometowns are:

Walter S. Batchelor III, Rock Hall; Phillip G. Bell, Cumberland; James W. Beveridge III, Dover, Pa.; Vincent L. Biondo, Nottingham; Ronald S. Collier, Severn; Douglas A. Felker, Frostburg; Mark V. Greeff, Edgewater; Gregory J. Harris, Easton; Christopher M. Morris, Cumberland; Frederick L. Timms, Finksburg; Robert Ward, Abingdon

Batchelor, 28, a Rock Hall native, had worked for the Kent County Sheriff's Office for six years prior to joining the NRP. He graduated from Kent County High in 1999.

"I've always liked hunting and fishing and I figured this way I could enjoy the best of both worlds. I mainly just enjoy being outside."

Batchelor said he will be serving in Anne Arundel County.

Harris, 42, had worked for the Maryland Capitol Police. He has lived in Easton for the last five years.

"I'm looking very forward to it," Harris said. "I've always wanted to be a Natural Resources Police Officer, ever since I started my law enforcement career. The opportunity presented itself and I took advantage of it.

"I love the outdoors. The department seemed like a well-knit family and I wanted to become a part of it."
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