Chief McMahon's legacy shouldn't be just the mall shooting [Editorial]

The career of Howard County Police Chief William McMahon will likely be remembered by many for the outstanding job he and his team did in the hours and days after the murder/suicide at the Columbia mall in January.

During those trying few days, it was McMahon who was in the midst of it all, keeping us informed of what his officers learned, and more importantly, providing the kind of leadership that gave the community at-large the kind of confidence that everything that could be done to make some sense of this tragedy was being done. It was McMahon at his best, and to those across tne country, showed Howard County at its best during the worst of times.

For McMahon, who announced last week that he is retiring at the end of June, it was an extraordinary time to be the chief of police. And while this incident may serve as the defining moment in his 28-year career in Howard County police, it would be unfair to McMahon and the legacy he leaves behind as the only thing for which he's remembered.

As McMahon told us last week, overall crime is down about 9 percent during his watch, with big drops in auto thefts and robberies. He attributes this to getting tougher on repeat offenders and on domestic violence. His officers have also cracked down on impaired driving with regular DWI checkpoints, and they have been active in enforcing other traffic laws such as making sure drivers are wearing seatbelts.

McMahon also placed emphasis on building relationships within the Howard community, regularly meeting with neighborhood or business groups to forge ties. His popularity was such that in 2009, readers of Howard Magazine, our sister publication, named him police officer of the year. He also won honorable mention for the award other years.

So, as we wish McMahon well in his retirement from Howard County police, it's only fitting that we remember his leadership on that awful day at the mall. But at the same time, we can't forget those ways that his service has helped to make the community a better place on all those other days, too.

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