The Towson police precinct will have its fourth commander in 26 months when a series of command reassignments moves Capt. Richard Howard from the Towson precinct, effective April 1.
Baltimore County Police announced the new assignments Monday morning, which send Capt. Richard Howard, who took over in the Towson precinct in May 2012, to the command operations bureau of the department.
His replacement, Capt. Jay Landsman Jr., is coming to Towson from the Vice/Narcotics Section of the county police department.
Elise Armacost, director of public safety information for the county police department, said the move was a result of the retirement of Maj. Karen Johnson, which created a leadership void.
"When you have a major or someone of rank retires, then there's a domino effect when that position is filled," Armacost said. "The Chief [Jim Johnson] has the authority to make decisions about commands based on what he feels the needs of the agency are, and the needs of the community."
Howard assumed command from Capt. Jonathan Trentzsch in May 2013. Under Trentzsch's command in 2012, Towson was the only precinct to see an increase in crime, though Trentzsch was beloved by the community for the relationships he built in his 16 months on the job.
Many community leaders believed his reassignment was punitive in response to the statistics. However, it later emerged that the commander he replaced, Capt. Andre Davis, was reassigned to the Community Resources Section while under an internal affairs investigation last May.
Trentzsch took over in December 2011 after longtime precinct commander Al Jones was promoted to major.
Armacost said the department recognizes how important it is to the community that they know their leadership, and said, "the department is confident that this is going to be the beginning of a period of stability in the Towson precinct."
"Sometimes, precinct commanders stay in place for years and years and years," Armacost said. "Sometimes, the situation is different, depending on what the needs of the agency are at any given times. … We do expect we're going to see a more stable period of command in the Towson precinct."
That planned period of stability would coincide with a period of unprecedented development in Towson. The Cinemark movie theater that will anchor the $85 million Towson Square development is set to open later this year. Towson Commons is undergoing a large-scale redevelopment that should bring restaurant and retail tenants back to the building, and a planned $300 million mixed use development known as Towson Row could begin construction as early as next year.
Councilman David Marks, who represents the 5th District including Towson, said that when Chief Johnson called to tell him of the command change, the police chief said Towson was "getting one of the best."
"I would rather have this type of turnover now than two years from now," Marks said. "In two years, we're going to be going through the most robust period of development in downtown Towson. By then, we will need a precinct commander who has established strong relationships and who is completely engaged in the community.
"While turnover is certainly a concern," Marks said, "I'm glad we're getting such a competent and well-regarded commander before this period of growth starts."
Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, said she also received assurances from Chief Johnson that Towson's growth was taken into account when the changes were made.
"We're a different town than we were five years ago, so they're doing things to adjust to our changing environment," Hafford said. She said Landsman's experience, plus that of the officers and leadership he is inheriting, will make the transition smooth.
"It's not like he's walking into a department that's in shambles," she said. "They are awesome. The police we have working in Towson are so good, and they know what they're doing."
Both Marks and Armacost lauded Howard's efforts at stemming a rash of street robberies and assaults last fall in downtown Towson.
A Towson University student was stabbed during a robbery on Nov. 3, and a day later, a Goucher College student was robbed in the same area while walking his bike home from school.
Other command changes include the promotion of Woodland M. Wilson III, who oversees the department's Operations Support Section, from captain to major, and the reassignment of Maj. Daniel Kaliszak from Operations Support to the Technical Services Division.
Additionally, Capt. Gordon Skinner, will be reassigned to command the Vice/Narcotics Section from the Parkville precinct, and Capt. Lisa Hannon will assume command of the Parkville precinct.