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Baltimore County

Olszewski calls Baltimore County FOP vote an ‘extreme measure,’ says there’s no need for change in top police leadership

The vote of no confidence in Baltimore County’s police chief by the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge was an “extreme measure” and there is no need for a change in police leadership, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said a day after the FOP’s divisive step.

In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Olszewski reiterated his support for his chief, Melissa Hyatt, arguing she’s doing a “fantastic job.”

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And he suggested some of the frustration with the chief could stem from changes she’s working to implement.

“We hired her intentionally to bring some changes to the department, and obviously, anytime there are some changes in a large organization, there will be some individuals who aren’t on board,” Olszewski said, pointing specifically to the agency’s recent emphasis on diversity, data-driven policing and community relationships. “These were not necessarily priorities in the years past, but they have been here.”

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Olszewski, a Democrat seeking election to a second term, appointed Hyatt in 2019.

Members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, which represents Baltimore County police officers, voted Monday night in a step rare for the county to say they’d “lost all faith” in Hyatt’s leadership and requesting in a letter sent to the county executive that she be “immediately” replaced.

But Olszewski has said he won’t be replacing the chief, and Hyatt said in a statement she would not be “deterred or distracted” from leading the agency.

The police chief can be removed by the county executive, under Baltimore County’s charter. The seven-member County Council doesn’t have the power to remove a chief.

Hyatt’s current employment contract expires in early December.

Councilman Tom Quirk, one of two council members not seeking reelection this year, said he has heard concerns from various police officers and shared them with the county executive. The Oella Democrat said a decision on whether to keep Hyatt is ultimately up to the county executive.

Some council members said they are concerned about the chief’s relationship with rank-and-file officers.

“The most valuable resource that we have is people,” said Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Woodstock Democrat. “Part of her job, in my opinion, is to lead the police department — which is the men and women, the rank and file. So for the rank and file to … have a vote of no confidence is troubling to me.”

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Jones said he hopes “they can get together and iron out any issues that they have.“

”And it sounds like there’s a lot,” he said.

Councilman Izzy Patoka also said he hopes there can be more “dialogue” between the chief and officers to strengthen their relationship.

“I’m saddened by the whole dynamic of what’s going on,” said Patoka, a Pikesville Democrat.

Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, said he thinks it is “imperative that the police chief take all steps, both large and small, to repair this critical relationship with our largest police stakeholder organization.”

Other council members did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

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Olszewski said Tuesday that he was still in the process of reviewing the specific grievances laid out by the FOP and that he would have a more detailed response later.

Concerns listed by the union ranged from Hyatt’s refusal to take questions from officers at in-service trainings to a failure to address crime in the county to how she’s handled sexual harassment and hostile work environment cases involving high-ranking members of the agency. Those cases and complaints have not been made public.

The FOP’s letter also specifically referenced a vote on due process rights Hyatt made in March on the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission, plus the recent inclusion of Sgt. Tia Bynum’s name in a memorial service for fallen police officers.

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Bynum was accused of being an accomplice to ex-Baltimore County Police officer Robert Vicosa in the abduction of his two daughters in November. Bynum, Vicosa and his two daughters were found dead after a four-day search in what officials have said was a murder-suicide by Vicosa.

Shelley Knox, a Baltimore County Police officer and president of the Blue Guardians group, which represents about 200 people of color in the agency, said Tuesday that her membership does have issues with the chief and would be meeting with her to discuss them.

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Some of those issues overlap with the FOP’s concerns, Knox said, but some of the group’s issues are unique, including around diversity and inclusion.

Monday’s vote was an unusual step for Baltimore County, which hasn’t seen a similar no-confidence vote in a police chief in recent history.

The union’s president, Dave Folderauer, was elected to his position in November, defeating David Rose, a longtime FOP leader. In the months since, the FOP has taken a more confrontational stance against Hyatt’s leadership.

Folderauer said Monday that the no-confidence vote was unanimous among the more than 100 members present at the meeting, which was closed to the media. The department has more than 1,900 sworn police officers.


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