As he spearheads the search for a serial killer who has terrorized the Washington suburbs for more than a week, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose has displayed passion and at times a temper.

A tear escaped his eye at a news conference as he talked about the shooting of a 13-year-old boy, who was critically wounded Monday as he walked into school. "Shooting a kid -- it's getting to be really, really personal now," he said.

When information was leaked about a tarot card reading "Dear policeman, I am God" was found at the scene where the boy was shot, Moose turned his anger toward the media for reporting it and some of his colleagues for letting the information out.

"I beg of the community, let us do our job," he said. "Disclosures in this category have tremendous potential to damage the investigation."

Capt. Nancy Demme, who works closely with Moose, said the breaks in his demeanor were not signs of exhaustion.

"That's not it. He has emotion. He has passion," she said.

"He's a cop but he's also human," said Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas Gansler. "He has become the face of this case."

Moose, 49, spent six years as the first black police chief in Portland, Ore. He grew up in Lexington, N.C., and earned a doctorate in urban studies at Portland State University.

In another prominent national case, he answered a stampede of media questions about Tonya Harding, the figure skater convicted of hindering the prosecution in a plot to injure rival Nancy Kerrigan.

Portland Mayor Vera Katz, who promoted Moose in 1993 to police chief, remembers his passion, tenacity, and anger. "He had very little patience for fools," Katz said.

Moose helped lower crime and introduced community policing in Oregon's largest city until he left for Maryland in 1999.

"He was an innovator," Katz said. "He ... had a clear understanding of what he wanted to do to raise the bar on community policing."

Moose acknowledges he gets fired up sometimes -- especially when it comes to the safety of kids.

"Kids are so helpless and innocent," said Moose, a parent of two sons, now 22 and 27. "Deal with me. But a kid? ... It's unacceptable."

At the same time, he said he felt bad for letting his emotions get the best of him. "We're supposed to deal with the facts," he said.

Moose's combination of heart and tenacity impressed Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, who hired him to help restore morale in a 1,072-officer force plagued with accusations of harassment and brutality.

The accusations were dismissed, Duncan said, but morale remained a problem.

"He came in and restored that, restored ties to the community," Duncan said.

In the 1970s, Moose answered a call for minority police recruits in Portland, becoming one of the department's first black officers. He worked his way up from street officer to police chief, where he raised standards for new hires requiring a four-year college degree.

"Charles has a lot of integrity," said Portland Police Cmdr. Bruce Prunk, assistant police chief under Moose. "He's also passionate about his beliefs. There were times he would be vocal about his position. He wasn't bashful."

In January 1998, Moose clashed with the media after a man fired on three police officers, killing one. Officers had surrounded the home of a suspected marijuana grower who may have learned the officers' positions by watching live television news coverage.

"You are endangering police officers' lives," Moose told reporters in a fury afterward. "We asked you again and again and again to get out of there."

Moose hammered out an agreement with television stations to refrain from airing certain live aspects of police activity and to keep news helicopters at least a mile away and 1,000 feet high.

The outburst was one of a string of occasional eruptions on topics he cared deeply about.

Moose's wife, Sandy, told the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., that her husband's tearful appearance Monday after the teen was shot revealed his true self.

"That's the real Charles. That's the guy behind all the toughness."