Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

Bowie High School gets second county deputy

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Susan Whitney/The Star
Cpl. Sherman Savoy of the Prince George's County Sheriff's Office keeps watch in front of Bowie Library on Tuesday after Bowie High School lets out.

On the first few days of school, it

wasn't just new students trying to familiarize themselves with Bowie High School. New sheriff's deputy Cpl. Sherman Savoy was also busy trying to learn his way through the maze of hallways.

"I wonder how long it's going to take me to learn this school. This is so much bigger than Gwynn Park [High School]," said Savoy as he toured the school with another security officer.

Savoy was appointed as Bowie High School's second deputy after spending three years patrolling the halls of his alma mater, Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine. He will be stationed primarily at Bowie Library next door while Cpl. Adam Taifouri has been moved from the library to the school.

Sheriff's deputies are appointed to all high schools in Prince George's County to provide extra help with security, often watching out for students skipping class, breaking up fights and removing trespassers from school property.

Shadowing veteran security assistant Joseph Tidwell on Tuesday, Savoy began to memorize the problem corridors and stairwells where students congregate when skipping class. Turning down the volume on their radios, they began quietly searching the hallways for students. The first mission of the day was to chase down a small group of students seen darting down a stairwell well after the bell for class had rung.

They caught up to one of the students after a hall monitor stopped him. The student had an early release to be able to work after 11 a.m. so with a strict warning to leave the building promptly, they sent him on his way.

The next alert came through a radio call for students seen sneaking back into the school with fast food. Fast food is not allowed during school hours and confiscated from students, said Tidwell.

"We threw away 50 pounds of McDonald's last year," Tidwell joked.

Ducking into a makeshift closet that houses the school's video security system, Tidwell and Savoy zoomed one of the school's 46 cameras onto the students and went to the nearest exit to greet them and their McDonald's bags.

"I feel like I can relate better to the kids because the stuff they do, I used to do in high school," said 25-year-old Savoy.

Developing relationships with the students is also an important part of the job, Taifouri said.

"Sometimes the kids will come to me and let me know a fight is going to happen and I will get [those kids in the fight] out of the school," he said, adding that he also surfs the Web to stay abreast of student relations. "If I catch an issue on MySpace before it happens then I take the kids out of the school because if I don't, it will happen in the parking lot."

The addition of deputies to the school has been a blessing for longtime school volunteer and PTSA president Mary Nusser. She said she used to be the one patrolling the property after school and breaking up fights when they occurred. She recalled being thoroughly impressed when she saw Taifouri interacting with students.

"[Taifouri] just had a way about him, all business," she said. "He gets along with every kid over there including the ones that are up to no good."

Watching a lunchroom dismissal, Savoy stared hard at the young faces before him. With almost 3,000 students at BHS he knows it is going to take time before he begins to recognize anyone. In the meantime however he wants to stay visible so students will begin to recognize him and maybe even feel comfortable enough to give him directions if he gets lost.

E-mail Andrea Noble at