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Hyattsville police chief Amal Awad picked as new Anne Arundel County chief, will be first person of color to take job

Incoming Police Chief Amal Awad is making history in Anne Arundel County.

Awad is the first person of color appointed county police chief and will be the first woman to hold the position permanently when she assumes the job in December.

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County Executive Steuart Pittman announced his appointment of the current Hyattsville police chief Monday. She is expected to be confirmed by the County Council after a public hearing on Dec. 7.

Awad is a law enforcement veteran of more than 30 years who started her career as an officer in Prince George’s County and worked in Anne Arundel as chief of staff from 2013 to 2014, according to a bio released by Pittman’s office. She is set to take over from acting Police Chief William Lowry on Dec. 17.

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“I am honored and humbled that County Executive Pittman has asked me to serve as Anne Arundel County’s next Chief of Police,” Awad said in a statement. “I have dedicated more than half of my life to this noble profession, and I thank Mr. Pittman for selecting me to lead this professional police department during this pivotal moment in modern policing. I look forward to working with the County Council and earning the trust of everyone invested in this beautiful county.”

Awad will be the second woman to be named police chief in Anne Arundel County, but the first to do so permanently. Deputy Chief Pamela Davis assumed leadership as interim chief in 2013 during the search to replace ex-chief Larry Tolliver.

And she joins at least two other women breaking barriers by being named recently to head major law enforcement agencies in Maryland. Howard County Police Chief Lisa Myers is the first Black woman to serve in that role, while Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt is the first woman to head her department.

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced Amal Awad as the next police chief. Awad previously served as police chief in Hyattsville, and worked for many years in Prince George's County.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced Amal Awad as the next police chief. Awad previously served as police chief in Hyattsville, and worked for many years in Prince George's County. (Courtesy Photo)

The post was vacated over the summer when then chief Timothy Altomare retired unexpectedly, citing a movement he said sought to remove the “teeth” from policing that would endanger officers and civilians and prompt a spike in crime. Lowry has been acting as chief since Aug. 1.

Pittman said Awad’s experience in the field makes her well suited to lead the department, but he also selected her because of her “rare combination of professional skill and heart.”

He said he was looking for “heart for the people in our communities, heart for the officers that protect them, and even heart for the young people who are trying to find their way in these difficult times but sometimes make mistakes.”

“I found all of that in Amal Awad,” Pittman said. “I am eager to introduce her to the County Council, the residents of this county and to the officers she will lead and support. This is a person who can unite us. She is a peacemaker and a consummate professional.”

While working in Prince George’s, Awad worked as a district commander, shift commander, special assignment team supervisor, robbery suppression team supervisor and executive officer, according to the Pittman administration. She earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in management from Johns Hopkins School of Education. She completed training at the Police Executive Research Forum Senior Management Institute and the International Association of Chiefs of Police Women’s Leadership Institute.

While working as the chief in Hyattsville, Awad introduced modern policing strategies and convinced the administration to increase its investment in pay for sworn and civilian employees, Pittman said.

Awad’s appointment has the backing of the union representing hundreds of Anne Arundel County officers.

O’Brien Atkinson, president of the FOP Lodge 70, said the officers look forward to working with her. The union had a seat at the table throughout the interview process.

“I got to see first hand how passionate she is about the community and our police officers,” Atkinson said. “It was clear through the interviews that she was familiar with our agency and that she had done her homework.”

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Councilwoman Sarah Lacey, D-Jessup, was part of the group interviewing candidates for the post. Awad was her favorite, she said.

“We need someone who has tons of experience but also has shown a willingness to change and adapt and not prejudge changes as bad,” Lacey said. “Whoever this person is, they need to be able to relate to people from 3 years old to 103 and make that person feel confident that that feeling of safety is real and not an illusion and not lip service. They need to believe that person has integrity and mean what they say.”

Awad takes over the department as it faces a lawsuit by Daniel Jarrells, who claims he was pulled over without reason by non-uniformed officers in an unmarked car and then arrested. Officers threw Jarrells to the ground with one pinning his knee to Jarrells' neck, according to the lawsuit. Detective Daniel Reynolds, named in the lawsuit, was suspended.

The announcement also comes the same day the council was poised to debate a resolution announcing law enforcement support.

The resolution was introduced by Councilman Nathan Volke, R-Pasadena, at the request of Anne Arundel Sheriff Jim Fredericks. Fredericks said he thought law enforcement morale could use a boost after a video surfaced of a man being forcibly arrested from a vehicle.

Response to the video was negative toward the officers' actions. Police defended the arrest, saying the man was given multiple opportunities to leave the car independently, and the man had outstanding warrants for his arrest.

Awad touted two of the pillars of 21st Century Policing as being her guiding principals, she said during a virtual news conference Monday. The first is “building trust and transparency," and the second is promoting “officer safety and wellness" — she said they see trauma every day and must feel comfortable addressing its effects on them.

And despite the coronavirus pandemic, Awad wants to immediately begin bolstering trust and transparency. She said she’s open to a civilian review board, a demand of some activists in the county, but said trust comes with conversations.

She said she’d usually go out into the community to talk to residents. Now, with a fall surge of COVID-19, that dialogue will have to take place online. Regardless, she’s ready to have those discussions, which she expects to be “both candid and what some would consider tough.”

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