Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding announces retirement

Westminster police Chief Jeff Spaulding announced his retirement Tuesday after 45 years in Maryland law enforcement, the last 15 in Westminster.

His retirement will be effective March 1, according to a news release from the city of Westminster.

Spaulding began as Westminster’s chief in January 2004. Prior to coming to Westminster, he was employed by the Howard County Police Department for 30 years, achieving the rank of deputy chief of police, according to the release. He was appointed following the retirement of Chief Roger G. Joneckis.

“After more than 45 years in law enforcement, I’ve decided that this is an appropriate time to slow down a bit,” Spaulding was quoted as saying in the release. “My wife and I are looking forward to welcoming our first grandchild in early 2019, and I’d like the flexibility to pursue opportunities that don’t require my attention 24/7.”

In a later phone interview, he said that he and his wife have been considering the change for the past several months after they learned they would become grandparents. He also said the need to be on call basically since 1980, being in the middle of the night with news of an injured officer or a serious crime “does wear on you,” he said.

In the future, “I know that I will be involved at some level with Special Olympics,” though he said the capacity of that would depend on future employment.

A committee will be established to choose Spaulding’s successor.

Westminster Mayor Joe Dominick stated, according to the release: “Under Chief Spaulding’s leadership, the Westminster Police Department has made significant progress, particularly in the modernization of its equipment and technology systems. Chief Spaulding has also done exemplary work in the area of training and staff development; during his tenure, eight members of the Police Department’s leadership team have completed executive development and leadership training, including participation in the FBI National Academy and the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.”

According to the release, Council President Robert Wack added: “One of Chief Spaulding’s most important legacies will be his work in preparing his officers to assist those dealing with mental health issues. He was at the forefront in establishing the Carroll County Crisis Intervention Team. Additionally, the Westminster Police Department was the first law enforcement agency in the State of Maryland to receive the ‘One Mind’ Program certification from the International Association of Chiefs of Police for its proactive efforts in dealing with individuals experiencing mental illness or a mental health crisis.”

Speaking by phone, Wack added “Chief Spaulding has had a lasting, dramatic impact on the department. He’s increased the professionalism of the department dramatically and raised the bar on the quality of the police officers that we train, that we recruit.”

Wack was a member of the Westminster Common Council at the time of Spaulding’s appointment.

“We chose well, as has been demonstrated by his achievements these last 15 years,” he said.

Over the past 15 years, the city has evolved and the problems facing law enforcement have too, Wack said. The opioid crisis and the crimes associated with it, for example. But the fact that Westminster remains relatively safe compared to other cities its size, is a testament, he said.

“As the scope of the problems have increased, so have the Police Department’s efforts to contain it,” he said.

Councilman Tony Chiavacci has chaired the city’s Public Safety Committee and worked regularly with Spaulding. He described him as “a consummate professional” with “a lot of experience over a vast array of topics for law enforcement.”

His father Roy Chiavacci was the chair of the Public Safety Committee at the time of Spaulding’s appointment and a retired captain of the Maryland State Police.

He said the committee reviewed many applications from highly qualified candidates. Roy Chiavacci said Spaulding possessed a background of command responsibilities and education and experience. Under Spaulding’s tenure, the implementation of the Law Enforcement Officers Pension program allowed the department to attract and retain quality members, he said.

“Looking back, did we make the right decision? No question. He served with professionalism and dedication,” Roy Chiavacci said. He wished Spaulding “well in his future endeavors, hopefully full retirement.”

County Sheriff Jim DeWees described Spaulding as a close friend and strong ally during his time with the State Police and as sheriff. DeWees called Spaulding a team player who could be called upon for his experience with two police departments.

“I will be very sad to see him go,” he said.

Kevin Dayhoff, current spokesman and chaplain for the Westminster Fire Department was the mayor of Westminster at the time of Spaulding’s appointment.

“It’s one thing to have a certain expertise, but what sets many successful professionals above the crowd is their communication skills, and I have always admired his ability to articulate complex police matters,” Dayhoff said of Spaulding.

He stressed Spaulding’s values of being open, transparent and accessible and praised his communication skills.

Keith Benfur, now a member of the Carroll County Board of License Commissioners for the Maryland Alcohol Licensing Association, served as a community education supervisor with the Westminster Police Department when Spaulding came on board in 2004. The community education supervisor works on programs like community events, and public education initiatives like in-school programs.

He described Spaulding as “fully supportive of these programs,” including Shop with a Cop which started the year before he began and has now expanded into a twice-yearly event during the holidays and back to school. At any event supporting Special Olympics, “Chief Spaulding would be the first one there.”

In reflecting on his tenure as Westminster’s chief, Spaulding said, according to the release, “I have sincerely enjoyed my time with the Westminster Police Department and greatly appreciate the trust and ongoing support of the Mayor and Common Council and the City Administrator.”

“I have been privileged to serve with the dedicated men and women of the Police Department who work hard every day to provide high quality public safety service to the community. I am also grateful for the many public safety and community partners with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work for the past 15 years; their spirit of collaboration is what makes Carroll County such a special place to live and work.”

catalina.righter@carrollcountytimes.com

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