The incoming Anne Arundel County police academy class is made up of 50% minority recruit officers, the most diverse class in the academy’s history, Interim Police Chief William Lowry said at an online county town hall Tuesday for National Night In.
The class is made up of 47 recruit officers, he said, of which some may drop out over the course of the academy.
County Executive Steuart Pittman, who hosted the forum on Facebook on the day that would have been the annual National Night Out event, said over the last five years, the police department’s force went from being made up of about 7% Black officers to 14%.
Pittman attributed the ability to recruit a more diverse class in part to an increase in pay that makes the county more competitive with surrounding jurisdictions than it has been in years past.
Lowry said the ability to overhire for the academy class is also helpful for recruitment and diversity. He said they lose about 4.1 officers per month over the nine-month academy.
Lowry, who was a deputy police chief under former police Chief Timothy Altomare, also got a chance to introduce himself at the event, emphasizing his love for the department and touching on national discussions on policing.
“There’s no such thing as status quo in public safety,” he said. “You’re digressing or you’re moving forward. And our police department is going to move forward. I look at all the things that are taking place on a national level, I look at these as opportunities.”
Lowry may serve as interim police chief for an initial period of 60 days. A County Council resolution could extend his tenure by up to four months.
Pittman said during the livestream that Lowry will oversee the implementation of body-worn cameras on police, which Pittman described as the “biggest transparency project in Anne Arundel County government right now.”
When Lowry spoke on other topics, he said, “We love all members of our community,” saying that is a sentiment he repeats frequently.
“Our police department loves you,” he said. “We wouldn’t do this job if we didn’t care about people and didn’t love them.”
He briefly introduced himself, discussing his 47-year law enforcement career in which he worked for Prince George’s County police, NASA, the NFL running security and emergency preparedness for the Washington team and the Miami Dolphins, and was police chief of two municipal agencies at the same time in Prince George’s.
He said he’s been married for 47 years and has three sons, three daughters-in-law and five grandchildren.
“I’m a very simple man,” he said. “I love three things: I love the lord, I love this job, this profession and I love my family.”
He said he tells officers that when they respond to calls they should be treating people in the community as if they’re family members. He said out of the about 450,000 average calls for service a year in the county, almost 98% don’t involve any type of arrest protocol.
He also discussed many of the department’s community programs, such as Coffee with a Cop, and lunch buddies, that are affected because of coronavirus precautions.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said the department has responded to more than 1,200 calls for service for violations of orders relating to coronavirus restrictions but has not made any arrests for violations.
The pandemic has also hampered the fire department’s public outreach, Fire Chief Trisha Wolford said at the online event. The department has adapted with some online content, such as Dan Dan the Pub Ed Man, which puts together fire safety facts. She said outreach like that is especially important because more people are home, increasing the opportunity for home accidents.
The department also created online tours of fire apparatus, catering to a younger audience, she said.
Both Lowry and Wolford spoke to the stress that the pandemic has brought for the department’s employees. But when visiting the stations, Wolford said firefighters have had a great attitude despite the challenges of the pandemic.