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Olszewski nominates retired officer to become Baltimore County’s first Black police chief

Robert McCullough, nominated to be Baltimore County's next police chief, speaks to reporters. He is joined by County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers and County Executive Johnny Olszewski
John Lee
Robert McCullough, nominated to be Baltimore County's next police chief, speaks to reporters. He is joined by County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers and County Executive Johnny Olszewski

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced Friday his nominee to be the county’s next police chief.

If confirmed as expected by the County Council, Robert McCullough will be Baltimore County’s first Black chief. He was a 35-year veteran of the department. He retired as a colonel and Operations Bureau Chief in 2021.

McCullough fought back tears at an emotional news conference in Towson.

"Some would say the chance for someone who looked like me, an 18 year old kid from West Baltimore, to become Chief of Police in Baltimore County, was less than zero," McCullough said. "At that time there were fewer than 80 African American officers in the department. I remember when I was the only African American on my shift. That reality always motivated me to be the best that I could be at everything that I did."

McCullough, who was joined at the news conference by his wife and daughter, said he was grateful to God and humbled by the opportunity to again serve the people of Baltimore County.

Olszewski said McCullough is a barrier breaking homegrown leader with decades of experience who shares his values for 21st century community policing.

"He is the right chief at the right moment to help lead the Baltimore County Police Department into the future," Olszewski said.

The county executive said that he was confident that under McCullough’s leadership “we can continue to strengthen accountability, promote more equitable policing, and keep Baltimore County’s residents and neighborhoods safe for years to come.”

McCullough, who is 56, will be paid an annual salary of $275,000 according to Sean Naron, Olszewski's communications director. Naron said McCullough will not receive his retirement pension from the county while he is serving as chief.

The selection of McCullough comes following a nationwide search.

He will replace Melissa Hyatt. Olszewski picked Hyatt to be chief in 2019. She was the first woman to hold that position. Last November, Olszewski said Hyatt would leave the job but did not say why.

Naron, Olszewski’s communications director, said about Hyatt at the time, “People come and go for a multitude of reasons.”

Hyatt had lost the support of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4. In May 2022, the police union gave Hyatt a vote of no confidence, saying officers were frustrated by her lack of leadership.

Since Hyatt left the office, Dennis Delp, a 28 year veteran of the police department, has been serving as interim police chief. He initially said he wanted the job permanently, then backed off, he said, for personal reasons.

Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Democrat, praised McCullough and expected he would receive a swift confirmation from the Council with a hearing possibly coming as soon as next week.

"He is well regarded and respected and admired by all of the men and women of the Baltimore County Police Department, and I am certain he will be a fine chief," Jones said.

McCullough has lived in Baltimore County for more than 30 years. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science and a Master’s of Science in Management from Johns Hopkins University.

His formal education also includes Johns Hopkins University’s Police Executive Leadership Program and Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s School of Police Staff and Command.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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