Baltimore County police chief steps down following no confidence vote

Escalating crime in the county and low morale led the local union to take a vote on Chief Melissa Hyatt's leadership earlier this year

By Darcy Costello
Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. — Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt will leave her position in early December when her contract expires, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced Wednesday.

Hyatt, the first woman to lead the department, was nominated by Olszewski in 2019 to helm the agency with roughly 2,000 sworn employees. Her contract ends Dec. 5.

Before joining Baltimore County Police, she worked for the city police department for roughly two decades, including stints as chief of patrol and chief of special operations, and as vice president of security for Johns Hopkins University and Medicine.

Olszewski has said he hired her “intentionally” to bring changes to the department, including around diversity, data-driven policing and community relationships.

Her replacement will be selected in a national search, the county said in a Wednesday news release. The timeline of that search was not provided; it’s not clear whether an interim chief will be named.

In a separate statement, Hyatt said she is “saddened” to leave Baltimore County but “excited to see what the future holds.” She noted that police chiefs are “appointed to finite terms in order to accomplish specific goals and objectives.”

“During my tenure as chief, we worked through challenging times,” she said. “I am so very proud of our many accomplishments, including initiatives that sharpened our focus on community trust, public safety and officer wellness.”

Olszewski called her a “world-class public safety professional” who has led efforts to modernize the agency and enact reforms.

Hyatt will depart alongside other Baltimore County agency leaders including Edward P. Blades of the Office of Budget and Finance; Roslyn Johnson of the Department of Recreation and Parks; Robert W. O’Connor of the Office of Information Technology; and Gail M. Watts of the Department of Corrections.

Blades, O’Connor and Watts are all veterans at their respective departments, having started in the 1990s. Johnson is far newer, having started in 2020 after stints at the parks departments in Baltimore City, Richmond and Washington D.C.

[RELATED: Baltimore County FOP issues vote of no confidence in police chief]

“On behalf of the residents of Baltimore County, I thank these public servants for all their incredible work and dedication to strengthening our communities,” Olszewski said in a release. “Our county is better and stronger because of their service.”

He said he would retain 12 other cabinet members, subject to approval by the Baltimore County Council.

Olszewski spokesman Sean Naron declined to comment on whether directors were retiring or departing for other reasons, calling it a personnel decision. Naron said all but Hyatt would leave at the end of the year.

When Hyatt was the subject of a no-confidence vote by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4 that represents Baltimore County officers in May, Olszewski stood by her. But in October, the county executive called it “premature” when asked if he would seek to retain her as chief if he won reelection.

Rather, he said he planned to do a “thorough review” of agency leaders across county government and “determine the appropriate leadership.” He was elected earlier this month to a second term in office.

Olszewski said he met with rank-and-file police officers at roll calls this fall and heard “general and specific” concerns about the department’s leadership. He declined to discuss specifics but said his team would follow up on some of the comments.

Following the no-confidence vote, a rare move in county history, FOP President Dave Folderauer laid out a series of reasons ranging from Hyatt’s refusal to take questions to her efforts to combat crime in the county. He claimed she hadn’t made herself accessible to the union, displayed an unwillingness to work with the FOP and hired leaders from outside the county.

Hyatt, in response, said at the time she wouldn’t be “deterred or distracted” by the FOP’s statement of displeasure. She said it stemmed from a “small group of my critics from within the current police union leadership.”

Folderauer said Wednesday after the announcement that the FOP looks forward to working with “whoever the county executive selects as the new chief of police.”

“We wish Chief Hyatt well with her next endeavor,” he said.

It’s not clear who will replace the other departing directors. Olszewski said he expected to name candidates for replacements in “coming weeks.”

The nominees will require approval by the Baltimore County Council. Council Chairman Julian Jones said Wednesday he expected hearings for new appointments to come in the first few meetings of January.

Department and office heads that Olszewski said he hoped to retain include the county administrative officer, the health director, the county attorney and the director of Human Resources, among others.

Baltimore Sun reporter Christine Condon contributed to this article.

©2022 Baltimore Sun.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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