- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2020

Women have secured the top police positions — and a place in history — in three Maryland counties for the first time ever.

Anne Arundel County is set next month to welcome Amal Awad as the new police chief. She will be the first woman to be a permanent leader and the first person of color to serve in the position.

In addition, the Howard County Police Department has brought on Chief Lisa Myers to lead its force, while Chief Melissa Hyatt is heading the police force in Baltimore County.

The three female chiefs, who have more than 77 years of policing experience among them, share a sense of pride in their achievements and their communities they serve.

Chief Awad, who currently leads the Hyattsville Police Department in Prince George’s County, said in an email that she feels “a deep sense of humility and honor” to have an opportunity that serves as an inspiration to “women, children and people from diverse backgrounds and humble beginnings.”



As the permanent chief of the Anne County Police Department, she will lead a force of nearly 800 officers who serve nearly 600,000 residents in the jurisdiction that’s also home to the state capital. (In 2013, Deputy Chief Pamela Davis briefly served as interim chief while the department looked for someone to replace former Chief Larry Tolliver.)

With her 27 years of policing experience, Chief Awad is slated to take over the department on Dec. 17, replacing Chief William Lowry. Former Chief Timothy Altomare suddenly retired Aug. 1, citing criticism of police following nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice this summer.

County Executive Steuart Pittman announced Chief Awad’s appointment earlier this month, and the County Council is expected to approve it early next month.

“I wear a uniform that my mother did not have an opportunity to wear in her lifetime should that have been her career choice,” Chief Awad said. “My mother would be proud. I am proud.”

In Howard County, Chief Lisa Myers has led more than 700 police officers since the beginning of last year — the department’s first woman and Black leader.

“My appointment represents an opportunity for many in our community who may have thought this aspiration was unrealistic,” Chief Myers said in an email. “I am grateful to all of the firsts (female and African American) officers across the country who helped to pave the way for me and other minority officers to ascend to the highest levels of our respective departments.”

A 30-year veteran of the department, Chief Myers was just over a year into her retirement when she decided to return and fill the position vacated by retired Chief Gary Gardner.

Since becoming chief, she has launched a pilot drone program, created a Professional Standards Bureau and restructured the department “to ensure we are best utilizing our sworn personnel.”

The experience has been “interesting” and “filled with growth, change, and sometimes anxiety,” the chief said.

“We have seen some horrific actions at the hands of police officers around the country that have embarrassed our profession and we have a lot of work to do to strengthen relations with those members of the community that have felt disconnected from their police departments,” Chief Myers said.

Nonetheless, she said she is “encouraged” by the officers’ adaptation to working through a global pandemic and their ability to continue building community relationships.

Meanwhile, Chief Hyatt took charge of the more than 1,800 officers in the Baltimore County Police Department in June 2019, replacing retired Chief Terrence Sheridan. (The department boasts of being the nation’s 21st largest police force on its website.)

“Being a [5-foot-2] female, I think I definitely prove that there is not a cookie-cutter description for a police chief,” she said in a phone interview. “That means that if people work hard, that there are possibilities for people in any line of work.”

Chief Hyatt, who has worked in the department for more than 20 years, said some of her agency’s initiatives — such as reviews of internal processes, technology and recruitment — were expedited after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, prompting national protests.

“In some ways [the expedited pace was] positive because it pushed progress,” she said. “But when you’re trying to really create sustainable, institutional change, sometimes that fast pace is very difficult.”

Chief Hyatt added that despite the challenges, “it gave me the ability to see the best of my new team. We had a lot of people that really rose up and did an incredible job under difficult circumstances.”

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