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A solid police chief exits and a solid police chief enters

Barry Rascovar
Barry Rascovar

Jim Johnson is out; Terry Sheridan is in. Should readers in Owings Mills, Reisterstown and Glyndon care?

Yes. Command of Baltimore County's 1,400-person police department matters, ensuring residents that communities are safe and secure.

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County Executive Kevin Kamenetz shocked the agency and county residents on Jan. 11 when he announced the retirement of Police Chief Johnson after 30 years on the force. Johnson, despite having done a first-rate job since 2007 leading county law-enforcement, found himself at odds with the county executive on a number of issues.

These included the department's less-than-admirable handling of rape cases, excessive traffic stops of African Americans, insufficient diversity in the ranks, placing more emphasis on community policing and controversial standoffs with irrational, armed African Americans that resulted in fatal shots fired by officers.

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How does it feel to be collateral damage from a political vendetta tied to statewide elections in 2018?

Baltimore County residents find themselves cau

Johnson was dealing with all these problems but not with the alacrity Kamenetz wanted.

The county executive has less than two years remaining in his final term leading Baltimore County. He's looking for quick resolutions so he can leave office with crime-fighting controversies resolved.

And since Kamenetz gives every indication of running for statewide office in 2018, he wants to boast about his crime-fighting accomplishments.

Johnson, born and raised in Essex, is a methodical plodder who quietly gets the job done. Kamenetz wanted a sleeker version, someone more comfortable communicating with the media and community leaders.

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It happened that such an individual was available.

Terry Sheridan has an enviable resume. He knows Baltimore County quite well, having served previously as police chief for 11 years.

He left only because Gov. Martin O'Malley named him superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

After six years in that important post, Sheridan stepped down when Republican Larry Hogan took over as governor.

Since then he's been an adviser on intelligence issues to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

With Republican Donald Trump in the White House, Sheridan knew his pro-gun control stance would make him persona non grata.

So when Kamenetz came knocking, Sheridan, who lives in Timonium,was available.

Next week, Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance will be forced to walk the plank in Annapolis defending the county's requests for more school

The good news for county residents is that both Johnson and Sheridan are solid law-enforcement leaders. The difference is Sheridan's broader crime-fighting experience.

Johnson spent his entire career in the county police force. In contrast, Sheridan put in 30 years with the Maryland State Police, 11 years leading the county police department and the past few years working with national security officials.

He brings to the job all this expertise and a keen appreciation of community policing and the need for more diversity in the ranks.

This is especially important in parts of the county where minorities increasingly predominate, such as Woodlawn and Owings Mills.

Johnson came under criticism for high-visibility confrontations that led to the fatal shootings of Korryn Gaines in her Randallstown apartment and Tawon Boyd in his Middle River home. Both were black.

Could those fatalities have been avoided if officers had been better trained on handling unhinged individuals with mental problems and possible addictions?

Kamenetz obviously feels Sheridan can move faster on this and other issues.

And since speed is important to Kamenetz as he prepares to run for statewide office, Johnson was politely informed the time for retirement had come.

Don't be surprised, though, if Johnson "unretires" in the not-too-distant future. It's entirely possible that Hogan, always looking for ways to embarrass his opponents, will find a spot in his administration for the man "retired" by Kamenetz.

In the meantime, Baltimore County is assured of having quality leadership in its police department for the next two years – a welcome thought, indeed.

Barry Rascovar's blog is www.politicalmaryland.com. He can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com.



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