Wearing the Badge of Wisdom

Loree H. Murray, 85, holding great-grandson Von Lee, 1, is the academy Class of 2006's oldest graduate.
Loree H. Murray, 85, holding great-grandson Von Lee, 1, is the academy Class of 2006's oldest graduate. (Photos By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)
By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

One of the newest graduates of the D.C. police academy is an 85-year-old woman recovering from quadruple-bypass surgery.

Loree H. Murray wrapped up training yesterday as the oldest member of the Senior Citizens Police Academy's Class of 2006. The 14 members, all of whom are older than 50, spent the past 12 weeks getting an inside look at police work.

The graduates didn't get badges and won't be handcuffing or arresting anyone. Some, such as Murray, will use their new expertise in neighborhood crime prevention. Others could volunteer to help with paperwork and other tasks at police stations and headquarters.

"This helps me go out and keep the area safe," said Murray, who with several strands of pearls and a black baseball cap looked more like a civilian than a wannabe officer. "It's a terrific experience."

Like many of her classmates, Murray is no stranger to fighting crime. She helped found Near Northeast Citizens Against Drugs and Crime in 1985 -- the same year her home was firebombed by associates of the drug lord Rayful Edmond III, whose dealers she helped turn in. Edmond is serving a life prison term.

"She really should start to take it easy because of her health," Murray's son Bobby said at the graduation, which drew about 50 relatives and friends. "It's dangerous, but I don't worry as much now because everybody knows who she is and respects her."

Rufus G. King III, chief judge of D.C. Superior Court, delivered the keynote address, thanking the graduates for their service to the police department and the city.

"All of you could very easily have said 'You know, most of this crime happens to somebody else. I've paid my dues,' " King said. "But you didn't do that. You may be retired, but you're not tired."

The program, which is in its second year, included an auto theft prevention session, a visit to the officers' shooting range and instructions on setting up a neighborhood watch program. Police officers worked with staff members from the Office on Aging to do the training. The commencement was at the Office on Aging.

Several graduates said they weren't sure how they would translate their experience into action.

The next class starts in March. Admission is free, and details are available on the police department's Web site, http://www.mpdc.dc.gov/ .

E. Veronica Pace, executive director of the Office on Aging, repeated the main lesson she hopes her students have learned: Take care of those around you.

"The only thing I ask of you is to look for where senior citizens are and where they are not," she told the graduates. "Too often we forget those who need our eyes and ears and responsiveness most."

For Tyrone M. Bryant, who retired in January after 37 years as a police officer on Capitol Hill, the message came through loud and clear. When he returned to civilian life, he enrolled in the academy in hopes of bridging the gap between police and community efforts to stop crime.

"Senior citizens have to work with police and help them know what's going on . . . that's the way toward long-term solutions," he said.

Assistant Police Chief Peter J. Newsham, who taught the "Community Policing vs. Traditional Policing" session, told the graduates that teaching them was enlightening.

"I've taught children before, and they don't listen. You guys listen," he said, drawing laughs from the standing-room-only crowd. "With all the life experiences you have, it was a little bit challenging."

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