Groomed to Be Chief


Col. Michael D. Gambrill has indicated that the status quo will be maintained as he officially succeeds retiring Baltimore County Police Chief Cornelius J. Behan today.

No surprise there. Colonel Gambrill has little reason to shake things up in Towson. He will inherit a department that Chief Behan, during his 16-year tenure, turned from a faction-ridden agency into a quality outfit of national renown.

What's more, Colonel Gambrill is a product of the system he will take over. He seemingly was groomed to become chief from the start of his career in the department 32 years ago. He was the first county officer to serve in every rank, working the streets and administering from inside. Since 1987, he has supervised the day-to-day operations of the department, a big, all-encompassing job.

The consensus is that he has performed all these tasks with skill and professionalism.

That's why Chief Behan recommended Colonel Gambrill to be his successor when he met 18 months ago with County Executive Roger B. Hayden. And it's why county leaders were pleased when the 50-year-old colonel was named last March to follow Chief Behan in the top job. For their part, police union officials were glad the new chief would be someone who had been a department rank-and-filer and who was a known quantity to the 1,600-member force.

Initiatives associated with Chief Behan -- such as community policing and advocacy of gun control -- will receive equally high priority after today. And, like Neil Behan at the end of his tenure, the new chief will have to confront budget problems. The county's economic woes of the past couple of years have taken a toll on the police department as on other public agencies, and while the worst of the recession might be over, Chief Gambrill should have plenty of chances to summon his experience in administration and finance.

He will also be tested by the increasing urbanization of the county and the problems associated with such a trend.

But thanks in no small part to the preparation and opportunities he received during his time in the department, particularly the Behan years, Colonel Gambrill appears ready and able to tackle most any challenge that might emerge on his beat.

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