Ron Starr

Baltimore police officer Ron Starr spent 38 years on the job, all in the Southeastern District. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun / May 22, 2013)

During a career spanning four decades, Baltimore police Officer Ron Starr says, he never really considered leaving the department's Southeastern District and moving up the chain of command.

"I never wanted to," Starr said, a longtime foot patrol officer. "I'm not knocking what they do, because we need administrators, but when you put three stripes on, you're not out there working with street, and I've had a love affair with the street for 38 years."

Starr, who is single, flashed a silver band with a blue line that he wears on his ring finger.

"I tell people I'm literally married to the department," he said. "I've given my entire life to the department."

Starr, 67, worked his last shift Wednesday, ending a career marked by a humble commitment to serving the public.

Ron Furman, owner of Max's Taphouse, called Starr "old police — a neighborhood cop, who knew everybody and walked the beat."

Joyce Adamski, an O'Donnell Heights community leader, said Starr's name "should be etched into the cornerstone" at the district station.

A career in one assignment is rare; officers can get shuttled between different units and districts several times in a single year. Starr walked foot patrols, trudging the sidewalks of Fells Point, Little Italy and Canton.

"I fell in love with the Southeast District," Starr said. "I figured, I don't have to go anywhere else. This is my home."

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Starr attended the University of Baltimore and sold insurance before joining the Police Department as a 30-year-old. It's difficult, now, to imagine him in another line of work.

He has worked a shift every Christmas so other officers could be with their families, and served on the honor guard. He held leadership positions in the Fraternal Order of Police, and led an organization for Jewish officers. He bought holiday gifts for every officer in the Southeast District for the past several years, and poinsettias for the secretaries. His retirement plans include sailing on a boat called "Off-Duty."

Perhaps that's why his last day was relatively muted. Several officers who shook his hand outside the station said things like, "You'll be back."

Officer Michael Ogle Sr., who at 32 years is another mainstay of the Southeastern District, said he knows Starr outside of work and didn't even know Wednesday was Starr's last day.

"That's how he is," said Ogle. "If he does something heroic, he'll go on the back burner. He won't brag about nothing."

Starr's philosophy, as an officer and a co-worker, was simple: Treat people how you want to be treated.

As an officer, he corralled drunks in Fells Point, and was on the scene after a man killed his brother over a piece of chicken.

He helped deliver babies — two and a half, to be precise. The half was when the Fire Department showed up midway through the birth and took over.

He recalled one of the births.

"She said, 'The baby's coming now,' and I said, 'OK, let's do this together.'"

The day after a massive blizzard in 1979, Starr was asked to report to work at his post at Old Town Mall, the once-thriving outdoor shopping center in East Baltimore. He put his uniform on, and slogged from his home on Maryland Avenue and West 22nd Street through the snow along an empty Jones Falls Expressway.