Capt. Jay Landsman Jr., the Towson precinct's fourth commander in 22 months, hopes to bring the communication skills gleaned in two decades on the job and the policing background of a third-generation officer to his new role as Towson's top cop.
"This is a great spot to be," Landsman, who began on April 1, said during his whirlwind first week on the job. "I'm happy to be here, and I hope that comes across when I go to these community meetings. I think it's a thriving community, just based on the calls and emails I've gotten so far. People are engaged. They care about what's going on, and I'm going to do my best to make sure they're getting what they need."
Landsman, who came from the county's vice/narcotics unit to Towson to replace Capt. Richard Howard, has a diverse background on the force that includes a year and a half at the Towson precinct. He began his career out of the academy at the Cockeysville precinct in 1995, where he worked as a patrol officer and a detective before he was promoted to corporal and then moved to the burglary unit in 2000.
After a stint in the homicide division, he spent a year and a half in the Towson precinct before leaving for a unique opportunity in 2006. Landsman took the opportunity to work at the new Pikesville precinct with his father, Sgt. Jay Landsman Sr.
"If not for going to work with my dad, I wouldn't have left here in 2006," Landsman said. "I can't get back those six years that I spent working in the same building as my dad, so I wouldn't give that back for anything. But if not for that, I probably wouldn't have left here."
Landsman's name may be familiar to fans of David Simon's book, "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," as well as HBO's "The Wire." Jay Landsman Sr. was featured in the book and had a character based on him in the subsequent TV show, "Homicide: Life on the Street." He even had a recurring role in "The Wire," playing a shift lieutenant, although another character used Landsman's name.
Landsman is one of 12 past and current law enforcement agents in his family. His grandfather, Raymond Landsman, began on the city police force in 1936, and the fourth generation of Landsmans — his niece Lauren — is currently a cadet with Baltimore County.
Landsman said he's known to wake his father from a dead sleep in the middle of the night to run cases by him, and said he can always count on sound advice from his father — no matter the hour.
Landsman brings a lot more than a storied family history to Towson, however. Landsman spent 11 weeks at the FBI National Academy in 2008, learning alongside fellow police from all over the world.
One thing he has learned in his experience is that communication is an officer's "best tool on the job." The new commander has two strong examples of that in assistant commander Lt. Randy Guraleczka and Lt. Mike Stankowski, he said. Guraleczka was the assistant commander when Landsman was first at Towson.
"Those guys have been here for a while, and they know the community leaders," Landsman said. "They're voices of reason, they're trusted in the community, and they know what people expect out here."
Landsman said he looks forward to hearing those expectations first-hand from community groups as he gets settled into his role.
Katie Chasney Pinheiro, executive director of the Greater Towson Committee, said the organization hopes for more stability in the Towson precinct's leadership as Towson grows in the coming years.
Paul Hartman, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said he hopes for a seamless transition and then, continuity, in what has been a high-turnover position in recent years.
Once Landsman is settled, Hartman said he hopes to work with Landsman on some late-night issues in Towson's bar areas.
"I'm a little concern that we don't want that stuff to get out of hand," Hartman said. "People will stop going to Towson if they don't feel safe."
Pat France, vice president of the Towson Area Citizens on Patrol group, said she got the impression through a phone call with Landsman that he would be "very supportive and very respectful of the work we do."
"I said to him, 'I guess you heard that our reputation in Towson is that we're very demanding,' " France said. "His response was, 'You should be.' I loved it."