The nominee to be Baltimore County’s next police chief served more than 20 years in the Baltimore Police Department. And it was Melissa Hyatt’s time in a police force rife with corruption that got the most attention from the county council, as it quizzed her Tuesday afternoon about becoming the county’s top cop.
Councilman Julian Jones wanted to know if Hyatt had any connection with the city police department’s infamous Gun Trace Task Force, whose members were convicted of crimes like armed home invasions, burglaries and drug dealing.
Hyatt, who retired last year with the rank of colonel, said the task force did not fall under her command. She added the officers who were under her knew she was tough to work for.
“I had strong standards but what people would always say, they knew what my standards were,” Hyatt said. “I was very clear about them. But I treated people very fairly.”
Hyatt also ran the city police department’s operations during the 2015 uprising following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, deploying officers where needed. Councilman Jones asked Hyatt if she thought that operation had been a success.
Hyatt responded, “My objective during that time, while there were incidents occurring around the city was navigating deployment of resources because there were a lot of places that needed help and not enough police officers.”
Hyatt said she wants to look for new ways to recruit police officers for Baltimore County. She also told council members that she will work to have a close relationship between the command staff in the police department and the Fraternal Order of Police.
Hyatt also promised to spend time in each precinct, talking to police officers and residents alike.
“I know the community members are going to have their own unique set of concerns that I won’t even be aware of until I spend time with them,” Hyatt said.
Councilwoman Cathy Bevins served on the police chief search committee. She said Hyatt has an impressive resume and that the county will be fortunate to have her as police chief. Bevins said there were a number of qualified candidates for the job.
“You are sitting here for a reason,” Bevins told Hyatt. “I very much look forward to working with you in the future.”
Hyatt is 43 years old and lives in Baltimore County.
Councilman David Marks told Hyatt, “It is really great for me to see someone of your age and your caliber advance this far in the law enforcement profession.”
If County Executive Johnny Olszewski’s appointment of Hyatt is approved by the county council next week as expected, she will be the first woman to serve as Baltimore County’s police chief.