Johns Hopkins Gazette: July 21, 1997

Making Policing
A Class Act

Sheldon Greenberg's
enthusiasm for police
work has led him to
"live his dream"

Karen Fay
School of Continuing Studies

Sheldon Greenberg says he knows the best snowball stand in Maryland. He stops by nearly every day to indulge in his favorite variety--chocolate. The stand is in Howard County. And that's where he started his career in policing as a community services officer when he was 19 years old. He's come a long way since then.

If Greenberg's career has a theme, it is the importance of community involvement by police and police departments.

For the past three years, Greenberg has been involved in all aspects of the School of Continuing Studies' Department of Interdisciplinary Programs, the linchpin of which is the Police Executive Leadership Program, an innovative two-year course of study for select police executives, leading to a master of science degree with a concentration in community development.

Seventy-six law enforcement officers are presently in, or are alumni of, the program. Another 24 are enrolled for this fall. And there has yet to be a dropout.

"I never expected the Police Executive Leadership Program to come this far," he says, "or be this successful."

Clearly, much of the program's success spins on Greenberg's passion for the work and his energy and ability to attract funding.

"We had no research money when we began. Now, we have more than $1.2 million in grants, and we're supporting major research in a number of areas, including police response to people with mental illness and the use of guns in the commission of crimes," he says. "Our involvement in policing at the national level is tremendous. We're working with the U.S. Justice Department closely in areas such as internal affairs, specifically, the handling of citizen complaints against police officers."

Greenberg was the main architect behind the recent $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to a consortium of state and local police and community organizations to establish the Mid-Atlantic Regional Community Policing Institute (The Gazette, July 7, 1997) to enhance his vision of helping police officers better understand and help their communities. Other projects are in the works.

Discussing police work--or the perfect chocolate snowball-- brings a huge grin to Greenberg's face. Perhaps that's because his passion for both began as a small child.

A native of Baltimore who spent his first years living across from Memorial Stadium (following the Baltimore Orioles is another of his passions), he is quick to admit that he is--as cliched as it sounds--"living his dream."

"I'm as excited about policing today as when I first entered the profession. I've never felt the stress from job dissatisfaction others sometimes do," he says.

Greenberg entered policing during what he believes was a period when law enforcement changed dramatically.

"During the late '60s and early '70s, police officers were dealing with urban rioting and strife. New attention was being given to individual rights, and, in response, there was a national focus on police needing to change the way they performed their duties.

"Even the makeup of police agencies was changing. I was the first Jewish officer in Howard County. I was hired the same day as the first African American officer. Within a few months, the first woman patrol officer was employed. And this situation was mirrored throughout the country."

During the early years of his career, Greenberg's mentors empowered him to undertake new roles in policing, which helped to set the stage for his remarkably varied positions in the law enforcement field. "I was taught by exceptional officers who really cared about policing, knew their craft, and took pride in teaching someone new," Greenberg states. "They also believed in allowing individuals to run with their ideas. I had the opportunity to develop policies and programs for my department and interact with other law enforcement agencies--which gave me a global perspective on the field at a young age."

This viewpoint was significant as his career unfolded to include work with the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. State Department, the Police Executive Research Forum and the U.S. Border Patrol, prior to his joining Hopkins.

"The Border Patrol was an incredible awakening for me," he says. "My previous experiences in Maryland were typical one-on-one encounters--usually one police officer and one victim or suspect. At the border patrol stations, it wasn't uncommon for two or three officers to enter a field and find 50 to 100 illegal aliens hiding."

Greenberg was a consultant and instructor for the patrol, teaching subjects ranging from stress management to managerial response to employee involvement in traumatic situations. However, he admits his role was often one of student.

"Many of the concepts of community policing I now use in the Hopkins Police Executive Leadership Program I learned by watching the border patrol deal with illegal aliens," he says. "The officers showed an incredible amount of respect and compassion, providing illegal immigrants with food and even money before sending them back over the border. There was never any loss of dignity or sense that they were being demeaned.

"I even remember one couple in Chula Vista who came across the border because they wanted to be married in the United States. They were caught in their wedding outfits. While waiting for a bus to head back to Mexico with the aliens, one young agent called a minister he knew to perform the marriage ceremony."

In 1986, Greenberg joined the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C., as associate director. His activities shifted from dealing with illegal aliens from Mexico to directing PERF's management services and international program, including establishing the civilian police in Panama following the U.S. invasion and evaluating U.S. State Department anti-terrorism training in Cyprus, Jordan, Hungary and Kenya among other nations.

"I'm lucky in the sense that each step of my career has followed naturally from--and built upon--the previous step," he says.

The Hopkins position built easily from his work at PERF: managing a law enforcement policy center; developing short-term and long-range police department strategies for improving efficiency and service; and conducting police department studies on issues such as use of force, race relations and agency structure.

"When I sat down with [SCS Dean] Stanley Gabor four years ago to discuss the possibility of creating the Police Executive Leadership Program, I was enthusiastic about the opportunity," Greenberg says. "But I never anticipated working with so many outstanding people. I could not have anticipated the level of success the program now enjoys. And, I never expected the program would grow so quickly.

"I also was surprised by our quick acceptance within the academic community. A number of universities have expressed interest in our program, and we are talking with a couple about the possibility of joint projects."

As Greenberg is prone to do, he quickly rattles off the myriad projects, program initiatives and ideas spinning from the Leadership program.

"We're expanding the neighborhood leadership initiative, conducting more research and providing greater support to area police agencies. In January, we will be offering police officers the opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree in management and leadership. It's all very satisfying."

And if it seems as though his Hopkins projects already make Greenberg the hardest working person in policing, his involvements spread well beyond the university community. He is a member of the Maryland Community Policing Consortium, Citizens Planning and Housing Association, and Baltimore County Public Schools Committee on Student Behavior. In addition, he is a founding member of the Maryland Crime Prevention Association and on the board of directors for the Central Maryland Red Cross Pheresis Donor Program.

Greenberg has turned down offers to serve as chief of police in several cities, but his voice on policing--especially as it involves police and the community--carries to all parts of the country as he is often quoted by local and national media.

Despite the sometimes overwhelming work schedule, Greenberg still maintains close family relationships and finds time for his various interests, ranging from carpentry work_he built the family room, basement and deck of his house_to raising bonsai. And, of course, there is always a minute or two for smaller pleasures, like stopping at the best stand in Maryland for a chocolate snowball. It is a spot on which the very quotable Greenberg respectfully declines to comment.

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