County Police Capt. Mary M. Williams took over yesterday as the head of the Criminal Investigations Division, becoming the first woman to command the 120-officer division, as part of a series of upper level staff shifts ordered by Acting Police Chief Robert Beck.
The assignment is the most exciting in her 24-year career on the force, the former Southern District commander said yesterday. The murder, rape and robbery cases that the CID handles are "more high profile" than those patrol officers deal with, she said.
Patrol work is more "reactive" to situations on the street, she said, but detectives in the CID must be more "reflective" as they try to unravel such cases as the slaying of a 14-year-old girl and the rapes of a woman and her daughter in their home.
Her appointment to the post was "a vote of confidence," said Captain Williams, the highest-ranking woman on the force. "I didn't ask for this, and I was surprised when Acting Chief Beck told me last week he was going to put me here."
Chief Beck said Captain Williams' gender had nothing to do with her appointment. "She's the best person for the job," he said.
Captain Williams, 45, took over as Southern District commander in January 1988 and became night shift commander in 1993.
She takes over the CID for Capt. Michael Fitzgibbons, who replaces Capt. Thomas Shanahan as commander of the Eastern District. Captain Shanahan becomes acting deputy chief of field operations, a post vacated by Deputy Chief Edgar F. Koch, who becomes deputy chief of the technical services bureau.
In another move, Sgt. Mark Howes, the adjutant to retired Chief Robert Russell, was transferred to the internal affairs division, and Sgt. William Rothenbecker of the Northern District became Chief Beck's adjutant.
Chief Beck said the transfer of Captain Fitzgibbons did not suggest that he was doing an inadequate job as head of the CID.
"Captain Fitzgibbons is a sharp guy with upward mobility in this department," the chief said. "But he doesn't have district commander experience."
Others who have risen through the ranks to become deputy chiefs without that experience have had difficulty understanding the problems of district commanders, he said.
Captain Williams joined the department in 1974. After a stint on the juvenile squad -- during which she chased a suspect and punched him in the face after he pulled a knife -- she passed the written examination for sergeant in 1974. Nine years later, she was promoted to lieutenant and worked the midnight shift as the department's night supervisor.
She holds a bachelor's degree in social work and psychology from University of Maryland Baltimore County and earned a master's degree in administration from Central Michigan University's Fort Meade branch in 1993.
Five years ago, Captain Williams took acting lessons, something she said she has "always been interested in."
She recently attended the Baltimore School of Massage and is certified in Swedish massage techniques.
"It's great for stress," she said. "It's much different than police work. I have a small practice I run out of my home. When I do retire, it could probably be used to supplement my pension."