Sitting outside the Laurel Police Department on Thursday morning, Sept. 27, Maj. Keith Mapp felt a sense of freedom.
He had already turned in his work cell phone, his patrol car — the material things that linked him to the department and ensured he was always connected to the job. After 20 years with Laurel Police, Mapp just had some paperwork to fill out before his retirement would take effect Oct. 1.
When Mapp reflected on what he's most looking forward to about being retired, he said, "Honestly, to know that I can pretty much go where I want and do what I want and I don't have my phone. I've had a cell phone or pager since 1994, and I've always been tied to this place."
But while he has a lot to look forward to, there are aspects of the job Mapp said he will miss — mainly the people, the camaraderie among the officers.
"It's a very close-knit family," he said. "That's kind of the best thing (about the job) overall."
Mapp and Maj. Robert Althoff were the only majors in the Laurel Police Department, and they split the responsibilities of the deputy chief. With Mapp's departure, the department will be reorganized and Laurel Police Sgt. James Brooks, who serves as the department's homeland security liaison, will be appointed to deputy chief of police (see sidebar).
The majority of Mapp's career has been spent working in investigations and evidence. He's leaving the department as the bureau operations commander for investigations.
Laurel Police Chief Richard McLaughlin said Mapp left his mark on the department and he will be missed.
"I think he was a great officer," McLaughlin said. "He brought a lot of institutional knowledge to the department. He was successful in all branches and bureaus he worked in."
At 48 years old, Mapp, a Sykesville resident, said he still plans to work.
"I'm going to take a few months off, do my own thing for a little bit, and then I'll look toward my next career," he said.
Given his background in investigations, Mapp said he'd like to work as a background investigator or in a similar position.
However, he emphasized: "I'm looking for Monday through Friday day work."
In the meantime, Mapp said he plans to ride his motorcycle, kayak, fish and get some projects done around the house.
Like many who go into the profession, Mapp knew he wanted to be a police officer since he was child.
"You get into the job because you want to make a change or you want to make a difference," he said.
Mapp's first two years as a police officer were spent with the Landover Hills Police Department. When the person who encouraged him to join left for Laurel, Mapp decided to go, too.
"I didn't know anything about Laurel, except I knew where Main Street was and Route 1, when I started here," he said.
That was in September 1992. In the past 20 years, Mapp's learned a lot about Laurel and found a sense of home in the community.
"Were there times I considered going to a larger agency? Yes," he said. "But the camaraderie here, not just in the agency but the city itself, is very close-knit."
Mapp also liked working in a small department, where he knew he would always stay in one spot, rather than be transferred from district to district, which likely would have happened in a larger, county department. He also got to deal with a greater variety of crimes.
"We're one of the few agencies that answers every call for service, including homicides," he said.
Mapp said he often had burglaries, child abuse cases and homicides — all different types of cases — on his desk at the same time.
The cases Mapp dealt with came with ups and downs. The upside, he said, was when he was able to close a case and see the look on the victim's face, knowing he was able to help them in some way.
"The worst thing is not being able to close a case," Mapp said. In those cases, he said it was difficult to have to look at the victims or their family members.
He said one of the toughest cases he worked on, though he was not one of the original investigators in the case, was the 2005 homicide of Brian Moses.
A 20-year-old at the time, Moses, suffering from a stab wound, crashed his black Cadillac into a wall on West Street. According to police, Moses had been stabbed in the Grove neighborhood and was attempting to drive away when he crashed.
Moses' mother, Shirley Bell, called Mapp at least once a week for many years, trying to stay up-to-date with the investigation. Recently, the calls were less frequent, every three weeks or so.
"Just because of getting to know her so well, I've gone to all the candlelight vigils she's had for him," Mapp said. "Hopefully, one day that case will close."
Making a death notification, Mapp said, was "one of the toughest things" about the job.
Cases involving children were also difficult, Mapp said, citing a case a few years ago where a 6-year-old came in possession of a gun and fatally shot a 4-year-old.
"It's tragic for the kid who died and tragic for the kid who had to survive that," Mapp said.
However, not all cases end so tragically.
Mapp and other investigators in the Laurel Police Department have brought closure, at least in one sense of the word, to many victims.
"You always hope that you made a difference … but I am very satisfied that I had a very successful career."