Montgomery County police officer’s dedication led to his death — 30 years later -- Gazette.Net


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Thirty years ago, on the night a drunken driver caused the accident that pinned Montgomery County Police Officer William Talbert between two cars, his wife, Judy, had begged him not to go to work.

But Talbert, who spent his career fighting drunken driving, told her, “There’s more drunks out there, I’ve got to go,” and headed out the door into the June night, she said.

In 1983, a drunk driver crushed Talbert between his cruiser and a car he had stopped. Talbert survived the accident, but it left him badly injured — and infected with hepatitis C, which he contracted from a tainted blood transfusion.

The disease forced him into retirement the next year. He fought the infection for years, but finally died in January 2012, at the age of 64.

Talbert is one of seven public safety officers who were honored in Timonium on Friday at the Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens for the state’s Fallen Heroes Day.

Public safety officials, family members and others from aro und the county gathered to honor and remember those who died during the previous year.

Talbert also will be honored during Police Week on Wednesday during the Montgomery County Police Memorial Service, then later in Washington, D.C., and at a national police museum in Florida.

Before joining the Montgomery County Police Department, Talbert was a submariner in the Navy, his wife said.

Talbert, who lived in Glenmont and Damascus during his time with Montgomery County Police Department, left a legacy of trying to keep the roads free of drunken drivers, his wife said.

“He saw the destruction [they caused] on the roads. He had handled some bad, bad accidents,” Judy said.

Talbert received numerous awards throughout his career for his valor and efforts to combat drunken driving.

Cpl. Paul Sterling, who retired from the Montgomery County Police Department in 2008 after nearly 35 years on the force, met Talbert when the two were rookies on the force in the early 1970s.

Talbert had a no-nonsense attitude and loved Fords, Sterling said.

He said Talbert cultivated a reputation as being strict, but fair.

“A lot of people today who he arrested ... when they learned of his passing, made comments about what a good officer he was and how he changed their lives,” Sterling said.

Sterling said the misfortune that befell Talbert is a danger all officers face.

“Really, what happened to Bill in 1983, unfortunately, is still going on today. It’s just a risk of the job,” Sterling said. “You’re really putting your life in your hands when you stop a car on the road like that because of all the traffic.”

Judy Talbert said she was hesitant to start dating again while divorcing her previous husband. “I was kind of shy,” she said.

When William Talbert asked her to just have a cup of coffee, “we went to the IHOP in Wheaton, and talked for hours,” she said.

They spent 36 years together. He adopted her two sons, and they had another daughter and son.

Talbert also inspired 16 different young men to join police departments in Montgomery County, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, Judy said.

Talbert’s son, William Roy Talbert, who is known as Billy, is a Maryland state trooper.

“He was everything — my father, a police officer, a submariner, the epitome of the word ‘dad’ to me,” Billy Talbert said of his father.

“It didn’t matter who you were, he’d go 130 miles per hour to get to you if you needed help,” he said.

Like his father, the younger Talbert spends much of his time trying to stop drunken drivers.

He has the highest rate of DUI arrests in the Washington County barrack and the third- or fourth-highest statewide for alcohol enforcement for Maryland State Police, he said.

“I have knocked on too many people’s doors at night and given them news they didn’t want to hear,” he said, referring to the damage caused by drunken driving.

When his father was alive, he would text him “DUI” every time he made a drunken-driving arrest.

Now, as he continues that tradition, “It was like I was arresting them for him,” he said.

stjbarned-smith@gazette.net