When Leo F. Matrangola can't be found at his job supervising the Baltimore County Police Department's vice and narcotics unit, check for him at the nearest tennis court.

But the 20-year police veteran from Street doesn't play tennis for relief from his job. Matrangola said his profession and the sport are much alike.

"Tennis will pump you up," he said. "It's like police work. It's very competitive."

Matrangola, 38, will leave his job -- but not tennis -- April 1 to become the Bel Air Police Department's new chief.

Matrangola will replace Thomas P. Broumel, who left the job in December to become second-in-command at the county Sheriff's Department. Broumel had been the town chief for five years.

Bel Air Administrator William N. McFaul, flanked by the town's mayor and commissioners, announced Matrangola's appointment during a news conference at theTown Hall on Monday. The commissioners are expected to ratify the appointment at tomorrow's meeting.

Matrangola was the town administration's top choice out of 69 applicants for the chief's job, McFaul said.

"The lieutenant is going to make a great contribution to the town of Bel Air," McFaul said. "He has great credentials."

Matrangola, a graduate of John Carroll High School, earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice at Towson State University and a master's degree in legal studies at University of Baltimore.

Matrangola is a certified police instructor in Maryland. He was an instructor at Baltimore County's police academy and continues to provide service trainingsessions at police departments in the Baltimore area.

Matrangola joined the Baltimore County force after his graduation from John Carroll in 1970. He worked his way through the department's ranks to lieutenantand commander of the vice and narcotics unit.

As the commander, Matrangola said he oversees a 52-member unit that handles investigations into drugs, gambling, prostitution and alcohol sales to minors.

Matrangola said he plans to retire from his $50,000-a-year job with a full pension at the end of this month.

He will earn $39,000a year as chief of the Bel Air department, which has 30 members.

"I hope to be a leader in law enforcement for this community and the county," Matrangola said. "I look forward, hopefully, to a good 20 years in law enforcement in the town of Bel Air."

Matrangola said hewants to meet with town citizens and see what police services they would like to see in Bel Air.

The town department needs to prevent crime from increasing because of Bel Air's easy access on the new Route 24 to Interstate 95, Matrangola said.

To prevent more crime, Matrangola said he would consider adding foot patrols on Main Street and hiring more officers.

Matrangola said he is already considering changes in the department's operations. He said he hopes to work withthe officers to establish new performance evaluations, job descriptions, and rules and regulation procedures.

He added that he hopes to increase cooperation between the Sheriff's Department, state policeand the municipal departments in Havre de Grace and Aberdeen.

Matrangola said his expertise in drug investigations should strengthen the work by the Joint Narcotics Task Force, which is made up of the county's police agencies and the State's Attorney's Office.

"I was always attracted to law enforcement in Harford County, but the opportunity was in Baltimore County," he said. "I always wanted to come backto Harford County. I wish (the starting day) was this Monday, not three weeks from now."

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