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Baltimore County

Baltimore County executive largely mum on reason for police chief departure: ‘Leaders come and go’

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and new Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt listen at a public safety town hall meeting in Randallstown in 2019.

Baltimore County’s executive declined Thursday to share any reasons behind his police chief’s departure from the agency, a day after his team announced she and four other directors would leave county government in coming weeks.

Democratic County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., who won reelection earlier this month, didn’t directly answer questions from reporters about whether he’d asked police Chief Melissa Hyatt to leave, whether she had any say in the decision or about any factors that changed since he stood behind her six months ago during a no-confidence vote by the police union representing county officers.

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“Leaders come and go for a variety of reasons,” Olszewski repeated Thursday, at one point declining to provide an example of a reason. “A lot of these are personnel decisions and I think it’d be inappropriate to get into details.”

Hyatt, the first woman to lead the department, is expected to leave at the expiration of her contract on Dec. 5.

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Olszewski has said there will be a national search for her replacement, and said Thursday no decision had been made on an interim chief. He said permanent or acting leaders would be named in coming weeks for the departments where directors are departing.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. in an April news conference pitched a slate of new police positions as part of his budget proposal, joined by Police Chief Melissa Hyatt.

Olszewski said he was thankful for Hyatt’s service and proud of what they’ve accomplished together. He pointed to a homicide tally that dropped this year compared to last year’s record high and what he described as a maintained decline in violent crime in recent years.

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Asked what he would be looking for in a new chief, Olszewski referenced roll call visits he made in recent months to meet with rank-and-file officers and other county government employees across agencies. Some of the things he heard, he said Thursday, included a desire for investments in equipment and precinct improvements, further efforts to be “fully staffed” and a solution for issues like officers being tapped to fill vacancies in crossing guard details.

“We are actively working on all those as we speak, and actually expect to have some announcements on those issues in the coming days and weeks,” Olszewski said.

The timeline for the county’s search for a chief is not yet clear. The county executive said he would neither “encourage nor discourage” internal applicants from applying for the position.

Olszewski said the top priority for a new chief should be keeping the county a safe place to live, work and raise a family. He also cited working with his team on “thoughtful” policing strategies, engaging with the community, leveraging data and supporting rank-and-file officers.

“We’re going to keep doing what we can to be even safer and better,” Olszewski said.

Hyatt said in a statement Wednesday that she is “saddened” to leave the county, but excited for the future. She said there were “challenging times” in her tenure as chief, but she was proud of accomplishments such as focusing on building community trust and improving officer wellness.

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“Police chiefs are appointed for finite terms in order to accomplish specific goals and objectives of County leadership,” Hyatt said. “I want to personally thank every police officer, professional staff member and community member who supported this important work. As a result, this agency is better equipped to face the future and serve our much-deserving County.”


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