Longest-serving active duty Maryland state trooper set to retire
EASTON—After a lifetime of serving and protecting the citizens of Maryland, the most tenured sworn Maryland State Police trooper is turning in his Stetson following four decades of dedicated public service in uniform.
Sgt. Vernon L. “Lee” Love, currently assigned to the Easton Barrack, will be retiring from the Maryland State Police after 40 years of service. Love has worked as a duty officer and supervisor at the Easton Barrack since his assignment there in 2006.
Love, who was known for his ability to enforce the speed limit, recently reflected that 40 years with the State Police has passed with the speed of one of those vehicles he would stop late at night on a straight stretch of Eastern Shore highway.
“It feels like I just started,” Love said. “My career has passed with the speed of light.”
Love long ago established his legendary status, both among his fellow troopers and the citizens he served. He has worked uniform patrol his entire career.
“I enjoyed working the road,” Love said. “That is all I ever wanted to do.”
He worked the road all across the state and has written at least one traffic citation in every Maryland county during his career, something few, if any, state troopers can match.
Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Jones, Chief of the Field Operations Bureau, knows it will be hard to replace the relentless focus on public safety exhibited by Love, especially in the area of traffic enforcement.
“Having first met Lee in 1988, I have always known him to be a champion for highway safety,” Jones said. “The highlight of his day was being out on the road taking enforcement action, to ensure the behaviors of speeders and aggressive drivers were corrected. Leading up to his retirement, nearly 15 years after most retire from law enforcement, he maintained his passion for his duty, influencing many young troopers to follow in his footsteps. His presence will be missed.”
Love’s interest in law enforcement began in his youth. His father was a Baltimore County Police officer who worked uniform patrol his entire career. He grew up influenced by his father and the other police officers he met.
His father was stationed for a time at the Pikesville Precinct, across the street from Maryland State Police Headquarters. His grandmother lived in Pikesville, about two blocks from Headquarters. Love spent a lot of time observing troopers and trooper candidates in Pikesville. He decided he wanted to be a Maryland state trooper when he was 14.
Even before his graduation from Randallstown High School in 1973, Love applied to become a cadet with the Maryland State Police. He was hired July 16, 1973 and became a cadet assigned to the Quartermaster Division, where he filled requisitions and delivered supplies.
Love credits his first supervisor with starting him on the path to a successful career. He worked for Sgt. Jim Buckworth who, at the time, had 42 years on the job. Buckworth had served as a field training trooper for Col. Thomas Smith who was then the Superintendent of the State Police. Love said Sgt. Buckworth instilled in him the traditions and values of the Maryland State Police.
As a cadet, he also worked at the Rockville Barrack and then was transferred to the Truck Weight Enforcement Division, where he worked at the Upper Marlboro scale house and on the roving patrol. For a few months in the summer of 1976, he worked for the Motor Vehicle Division installing radios in new police cars.
In September 1976, he entered the Maryland State Police Academy as a member of the 75th Trooper Candidate Class. He and his 47 classmates graduated six months later, on March 4, 1977.
In 1979, Love requested and received a transfer to the K-9 Division, where he would spend the next two decades. At the time, he lived in Carroll County. The K-9 training was in Easton, so he spent months away from home as one of the first state troopers to work with dogs trained as both a patrol and drug detection dog.
When he graduated from K-9 school he was assigned to the Berlin Barrack, about 150 miles from his home. Since K-9 troopers were required to have a house near where they were assigned so they could properly care for their dog, Love packed up his family, sold his home in Carroll County and moved to Worcester County. He has lived on the Eastern Shore ever since.
Love was sent all across Maryland for assignments. He liked the action, the change of scenery, and the unpredictability of what each day would bring. He also liked working the traditional shift of K-9 troopers, which was 7:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. He felt that was the ideal shift if you really wanted to be a police officer because that is when you were the busiest.
Love’s personnel file holds dozens of letters from appreciative citizens, as well as commendations and awards from the Maryland State Police. He was the Berlin Barrack Trooper of the Year in 1997 and again in 1998. After being promoted to sergeant in 2006 and transferring to the Easton Barrack, he was named Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year at that barrack.
Working as a duty officer at the Easton Barrack for the last seven years was not his ideal assignment. “I did not enjoy dealing with people over the phone,” Love said. “I always preferred being out on the road, dealing with situations directly. I enjoyed being out there.”
Love was quick to volunteer for assignments that would get him from out behind the desk and back on the road. He was a frequent radar operator for speed enforcement teams.
When asked what his best day on the job was, Love said, “Every day was the best day.” His response regarding his worst day on the job came just as quickly. “My worst day was December 17, 1977, when my Academy classmate, Trooper Gregg Presbury, was shot and killed in the line of duty,” Love said. “Over 40 years, I’ve lost a lot of friends the hard way.”
Retiring after 40 years was not an easy decision. “The Maryland State Police has been a major part of my life for most of my adult life,” Love said. “It is just like family. Like everyone else who has retired before me says, the biggest thing I am going to miss will be the people I work with.”
Love is retiring from the State Police, but not from law enforcement. Without a break, he will be assuming duties as a school security officer for the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. He will be assigned to the Pocomoke Middle School, now patrolling halls instead of highways.
His advice for his fellow troopers still serving is simple. “You need to be careful,” Love said. “Do what you were taught to do. Come to work everyday with a commitment to do your duty, but to have fun. If you are coming to work to be miserable, it won’t be a good day. I was always lucky to work at barracks where everyone liked the work and had fun doing it.”