Dorothy Walltower patrols the halls of Alice Deal Junior High School off Nebraska Avenue NW, a picturesque old school in a neighborhood of expensive houses and well-kept lawns. On the job, she has time to admire the picture of the new baby boy one student hands her and to counsel another child who is nervous about an upcoming jump-rope contest.

But she says she isn't the textbook Officer Friendly.

"I am a bad, mean, evil Officer Friendly. I arrest these kids," she says. Last week, for example, she arrested a student for stealing a box of candy bars.

But then again, she chaperoned the school dance and coached the girls' double-dutch jump-rope team.

Walltower, 35, says that 10 years ago she was working in a dry cleaning shop for $90 a week and trying to support her 2-year-old. She applied to the police force because, "I needed the money. I was a single parent and I had to pay the rent."

Walltower was assigned to work in upper Northwest and says she commuted 1 1/2 hours by bus from her home in Southeast every day. "But it sure was exciting. I was born and raised in a country town Hagerstown and I had never been out all night long. I was so excited to work the midnight shift and stay out all night. Everybody looked at me and said, 'She's country!' "

Working as a youth officer with children brought to the precinct house was "like being a social worker. I've always loved kids and trying to help them. I look for the root of the problem. It was often the parents. Here sits Johnny and he is crying. He is starving for affection and you call the parents to come get him and they say, 'You can keep the rotten kid. We don't want him.' And here is this kid saying, 'When are my mommy and daddy coming to get me?' It just about breaks your heart.

"As long as I can work with children I'll stay on the force."