Towson's top cop: Capt. Jay Landsman Jr. comes from a family of police officers

Towson precinct commander Jay Landsman, Jr. comes from a family of police officers

Capt. Jay Landsman Jr., commander of the Towson precinct of the Baltimore County Police Department, stood in the doorway of a precinct annex April 26, because there was no longer space in which to sit in the conference room.

The annex was filled with people from throughout the greater Towson area who wanted to discuss their concerns about crime in the community.

Landsman was already working to address some of those problems, while others fell outside police jurisdiction — either way, Landsman listened to every one.

The meeting about crime, organized by the Towson Police and Community Relations Council, had been delayed by a January blizzard until April 26. The idea for the meeting came after a particularly rough December for the Towson precinct in which several robberies occurred, including one that resulted in a suspect being shot and killed by the owner of the liquor store from which he was trying to steal, according to police.

"That was about as bad as it's been since I've been here," Landsman said, speaking of his two-year tenure as leader of the Towson precinct. His first day on the job was April 1, 2014.

Apart from those robberies, the first three months of 2016 had shown crime trends similar to the past five years, Landsman told those who gathered at the meeting.

During the meeting a trend quickly surfaced, with about half the participants saying they were from Ridgely.

"I think there's some stuff on Ridgely's mind," Landsman said, drawing a laugh from the group.

Earlier in April, dozens of high-schoolers had come to the Ridgely community with the intention of fighting, an incident that was related to a dispute at Loch Raven High School that involved a student and a prom dress, according to people who spoke at the meeting. Ultimately charges weren't filed, Landsman said in April, but neighbors were concerned that students from other areas had been able to board school buses to Ridgely, several residents said.

Landsman said the police talked with officials at Loch Raven High School about the incident, to ensure that such problems are settled on school grounds and don't spill into the community.

Since taking the reins of the Towson station, Landsman has worked to improve community relations, though he said accomplishments aren't something he thinks about.

"This job is not one where you can really stop and high five," he said. "You're always on the lookout for the next challenge."

The foundation of his career lies in his family bonds, he said, discussing his father, four siblings — Becky, Nick, Janet and Joe — and wife, Jen.

"It's a very important part of this whole thing," he added. "Being able to come in with a clear mind, [knowing] that you have somebody who has your back."

Landsman's family is in a unique position to support him in his police work; three of his siblings, Nick, Janet and Joe, are also in law enforcement, as is his father and niece. Nick and Janet are officers at the Pikesville precinct, while Joe is attached to an FBI Task Force as part of the Baltimore City Police Department.

Jay Landsman Sr., 65, worked more than two decades for the Baltimore City Police, 16 of that in the homicide department. He now works for Baltimore County police at the Pikesville precinct as a lieutenant.

Landsman Sr.'s experiences were included on the HBO series, "The Wire." He retired from the city force and began a second career with Baltimore County in 1994.

The Landsman children hold memories of their father's time in Baltimore, and what it was like to grow up with their father working a high-profile job.

There are the funny stories, like the time Landsman Jr. handcuffed his wrist to his ankle as a child and had to wait for his dad to come home to free him. Now every key ring in the house includes a handcuff key, the family said. Landsman Jr. and the other kids would make faux investigations, writing police reports on "suspicious" catalogs delivered to neighbors.

The kids would stay up late some nights and wait for Landsman Sr. to come home with pizza, Landsman Jr. said.

Landsman Jr. was perhaps the most committed to a career in law enforcement from an early age, members of his family said. He wouldn't wear shorts in the summer because his father didn't wear shorts to work. He'd patrol on a police-themed Big Wheel tricycle.

Landsman Jr., 40, said he didn't really think it was unusual that his father and three uncles were police officers.

"It's just what you did," he said. "My youngest recollection [is that] I always associated that with the good guys, who were out there to help people. To keep people from hurting people. There's no other name or company in the phone book to call."

As captain of the Towson precinct, Landsman Jr. is the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in his family.

"He's always been 'Mr. Take Control,' " Becky Holloman said of her brother.

'Willing to learn'

Landsman Sr. helped mentor his son when he joined the county police force in 1995. His son would shadow him and learn about interview techniques, court orders and wire taps.

"He was so willing to learn," Landsman Sr. said. "What he absorbed was incredible."

The father's primary advice to his son boils down to treating people the way you'd like your family to be treated.

"Do what comes natural to you," Landsman Sr. said. "Be honest. And be fair to people."

Officer Rebecca Borowski of the Pikesville precinct currently works with Jay's sister, Officer Janet Landsman, as well as Landsman Sr. and has worked with Landsman Jr. in the past. She said she sees the largest similarity between junior and senior. The two have the same sense of humor, she said, which puts fellow officers at ease, and lessens the stress of police work.

"Jay Jr. is just a wonderful person all around," she said. "Very easy going, very smart."

One thing Landsman Jr. has tried to do since taking command in Towson is foster good relationships with the community. That will continue to be a goal, he said.

"Maintaining that relationship with those folks, making sure they know they have someone they can reach when they have issues, when they want to talk about things," he added.

The skyline of Towson will change in the coming decade — the ground has already broken for hundreds of new housing units, as old buildings are redeveloped into homes for the growing area. The precinct borders the top of Baltimore City, and covers the Towson and Parkville areas.

Adapting to that growth and change is the biggest goal Landsman Jr. has in his role as precinct captain. He hopes to achieve that goal through developing good personnel and making sure young officers have the resources they need to adapt to a growing Towson.

"We're continuing to talk about it, plan and make sure we're prepared for it," he said.

Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson stressed that he values the captains he commands equally, but said he has been impressed by Landsman's calm demeanor and his ability to multi-task. Landsman's depth of knowledge about policing and his engagement with the community are also impressive, Johnson said.

"He is proactive rather than reactive," Johnson said. "He has done and continues to do an exceptional job for the citizens of Baltimore County."

The importance of family

Becky Holloman, Landsman's sister, has 20 people in her family, including nieces, nephews, children, brothers, a sister and her parents. She no longer remembers how to cook on a small scale, she said.

For a Sunday dinner in April, she cooked pasta with sausage for her family.

There was a table with salad and side dishes in the kitchen, and a large metal pot keeping the main course warm on the stovetop. There is no regulation time for dinner on Sundays in the Landsman family — with various shift schedules, the Landsmans come and go, grabbing paper plates and sitting down at a long kitchen table with a blue tablecloth.

The Sunday dinners have been a tradition forever, the siblings said. Landsman Sr. said one thing he has learned during four decades of policing is the importance of a supportive family. He has that with his wife, Mary, Landsman Sr. said.

Landsman Jr. receives the same level of support from his wife, Jen, he said. They met as teenagers while working at George's Super Thrift, in Randallstown. Even then, his wife-to-be knew that his intention was to work in law enforcement, Landsman said.

For Becky Holloman, the easiest thing is to not think about the dangers her family faces, she said.

"I just had to turn it off," she said. "There's never a day you're not worried, you get used to it."

The unrest in Baltimore last year was the most difficult thing she's been through, she said, with her family going into the city to assist. "That was a very emotional time," she said.

But she knows the character of her brothers, sister and father, she adds. "I know they're out there to help people."

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