New precinct commander on beat in Towson

As a 28-year veteran of the county police force who has spent the past six years in a command position, Capt. Jonathan Trentzsch is confident in his abilities to take over as commander of the Towson Precinct from Al Jones, who was promoted from captain to major in mid-December.

But like any newcomer, understanding the many layers that make up Towson is giving the new captain more than enough to do in his first month as commander.

"I know how to do the job," said Trentzsch, a member of Loch Raven High School's Class of 1980. "I've run commands before. That's probably one of the things that isn't as big of a concern to me. It's more, 'I have this issue, who needs to be plugged in?' "

Fresh off two years as a night duty commander, Trentzsch knows many of the officers who are now under his command. In addition to going to roll calls to meet the officers he doesn't know, Trentzsch has made it a point to meet all the "players" in Towson.

His new precinct contains a pair of shopping malls, two universities, two high schools and three hospitals, as well as layers of active community groups — all presenting a new circle of people to become acquainted with.

"In a short amount of time, it's just getting my face out there and trying to contact all the people I have to deal with," Trentzsch said.

Councilmen David Marks and Todd Huff, as well as Towson Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nancy Hafford, are among those he's had a chance to speak with so far.

"We're very, very impressed," Hafford said. "Captain Jones did a great job for our area, and we're very happy that he had the opportunity to move up.

"The new captain has come in and is making the rounds," she said. "Whenever there's an issue anywhere, he gives us a call and lets us know. He keeps the lines of communication very, very open."

Deadly start

The security officer at Towson Town Center mall was another person Trentzsch hoped to meet informally early in his tenure, but the two ultimately met for the first time at the mall after a Dec. 19 shooting death outside Nordstrom.

Trentzsch assumed his role as commander of the Towson Precinct on Dec. 16, and, three days later, Rodney Vest Pridget, 19, was shot in the mall parking lot during the busiest shopping period of the year, bringing the worst kind of attention to Towson.

Trentzsch was home after working the day shift when his pager went off with the news, and right around that time, he got a call from the shift lieutenant, Mike Stankowski. He had to drive back in but felt confident that the situation was being handled well.

"I knew who was on duty," Trentzsch said. "Mike Stankowski is excellent. I'd put him up against pretty much anybody in the county."

Trentzsch said he thought the precinct and department's response was "excellent," and he felt "very, very comfortable" knowing Stankowski was working the scene, while the captain monitored the situation from his car on his police radio.

"As a commander, I've been through a lot of things too, but these guys do this day-in and day-out," Trentzsch said. "Take away the rank, (Stankowski) would do just as well or better than me. I'm not one of these people who says, 'I'm the captain, I know.' "

Trust in his troops appears central to Trentzsch's leadership style. He has told his officers that he'd like to be plugged in on anything they think he'd like to know about, but more often than not he'd defer to their judgment.

Campus beat

Another "player" that Trentzsch met upon his arrival in Towson was actually a familiar face from the Essex Precinct, where Trentzsch started his police career.

Towson University's Assistant Vice President and Chief of Police Bernie Gerst, a retired Baltimore County police officer, was Trentzsch's first sergeant after he graduated from the police academy.

Gerst said he was "obviously very happy" when he saw that Trentzsch was the new precinct commander, and noted the benefit of being able to pick up the phone and call someone he is already familiar with.

"Jon's a good man," Gerst said. "I expect fully to have a great working relationship with Jon."

Gerst said the relationship that has blossomed between the university's police department and county police could be a model for anywhere else in the state in terms of sharing of information and side-by-side training.

One of the key tensions between the campus and the community has been the relationship with students who live off-campus. Though he's just becoming familiar with the history of off-campus housing issues, Trentzsch said he hopes to continue Jones' efforts to assuage concerns on that front, such as his use of "party squads" that step up police presence in off-campus residence areas on weekends and holidays.

For his part, Jones, who was promoted and is now the area major of Eastern Patrol, said that the only real advice he gave Trentzsch was to make sure he stays involved in the community.

"I'm quite sure he's going to get himself acclimated well, knowing your Ed Kilcullens and Mike Ertels," Jones said, referencing two longtime community activists and past presidents of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations.

"He's going to get to know the people he needs to," Jones said. "I think he's going to be a perfect fit for Towson."

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