After years of being patrolled under the Maryland State Police Resident Trooper Program, the town of Mount Airy formed its own police force. The department's first offical day in service was Sunday.
MOUNT AIRY — At around 12:55 p.m. Sunday, Officer J.D. Brooks answered the radio in his patrol car. Someone on Main Street had reported a group of children throwing rocks at town property.
At any other time, this would not be a newsworthy occurrence within the realm of rural town police work. But Sunday, Oct. 1, was the first official day of service for the Mount Airy Police Department and this was the first call Brooks would take during his daytime patrol.
Throughout the quiet, sunny morning, Brooks patrolled the town neighborhoods, sometimes making traffic stops. Enforcing speeding is especially important, he said, because of the high volume of pedestrians in the town. Two of the drivers he interacted with had good records and got off with a warning.
"I treat people like I want to be treated," he said.
Several people waved as he drove by. A few flagged him down to ask questions or share traffic concerns.
"One thing of small-town policing is frequent interaction with citizens," he said. "People have been very welcoming."
Currently the Mount Airy Police Department is seven strong, including Chief Doug Reitz. One prospective officer is in the academy and two more are transferring from other agencies, which will bring the total to 10 in the next several months.
Sgt. Curt Snyder said the department has a diverse group of officers with some coming from Baltimore and others from more rural areas.
Snyder served in Baltimore for 22 years where he achieved the rank of lieutenant. He agreed to come on board with Reitz because he was excited by the idea of helping to start a new department and being part of "the original 10."
"My kids will be able to say, 'Look, Dad was a part of that,' " he said.
Previously, five Maryland State Police troopers served in the town through the Resident Trooper Program. Two of those officers have moved to the Resident Trooper Program in Walkersville.
The new Mount Airy officers were sworn in at a ceremony on Sept. 11. They have been training since the summer, learning the patrol areas and the specific procedures of the department and shadowing the state troopers.
Brooks had an advantage at the beginning of training, having grown up in Mount Airy. He graduated from the academy in 2004 and served 13 years in Taneytown. The opportunity to be part of a brand new department in the area where he grew up appealed to him.
Though many of the neighborhoods and businesses have changed, he was able to help other officers learn the lay of the land.
"Some of the business owners, I've known since high school," he said.
One of the specific challenges for the department is that the town sits over the county line between Frederick and Carroll. All dispatch is handled through Carroll, but things can get more complicated when charges are involved in one of the county courts.
Snyder said the department will have to work with the fact that an officer may be called to court on the same day in two different counties. Brooks said he has to be certain which county he is in when filling out reports.
The new police department is housed in a former commercial building at 205 Center St. that has been renovated to work as a law enforcement building. Reitz said the space is a temporary one that will work for 4 to 5 years until the agency grows. Boxes and equipment can still be found in some of the hallways.
"It seems like a new package arrives every day," Brooks said.
The uniforms were another challenge. Reitz said the town ordered from one company and waited several months only to have the uniforms come in the wrong sizes. They had to take the patches off and find a new company to work with.