New police chief takes over in Anne Arundel County

FILE — In this 2019 photo, Chief Amal Awad is photographed at the Hyattsville police headquarters in Hyattsville, Md., on Jan. 18, 2019. (Photo by Cheryl Diaz Meyer for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The new chief of police in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, is a familiar name.

Chief Amal Awad worked for the department as the chief of staff for former police Chief Kevin Davis after a long career as a Prince George’s County officer, where she retired after a stint as commander of the Second District, which includes Bowie.

Awad was most recently the chief of police in Hyattsville, where a search is now underway for a new chief.

She takes over in Anne Arundel County with a strong reputation in the policing community. One of those supporters who recommended her for the job was William Lowry, who served as the interim chief in the county after Tim Altomare stepped down.

“You’re getting a chief who understands the criticality of the office she’s getting ready to take,” said Lowry, who also helped interview the candidates for the job. He introduced Awad during a streamed ceremony.

“I’ve known Chief Awad since the mid-1990s. I know you’re getting someone who has a genuine heart for people. She also understands the accountability that coincides [with] the position she’s getting ready to take. … You are in wonderful hands,” he said.

The focus of Awad’s speech was on family, and how it has influenced her over the years. At one point, she put her career on pause to help care for an elderly parent. Now, she takes over a department at a time when mistrust of police is on the rise, as is scrutiny of the work police do.

In her first speech, Awad spoke in defense of, and with broad admiration for, the work police officers do on a daily basis.

“They suit up every day, every day, no matter what’s going on in their personal lives, and answer the call to serve,” said Awad, before thanking officers’ family members for “sharing” their loved ones with the community.

“Are we perfect? Absolutely not,” Awad said. “But, at times it seems … that we’re expected to respond perfectly in a very dynamic and imperfect set of circumstances. We’re human. We love. We hurt. We cry. And we’ll make mistakes. And when we’re wrong, whether unintentionally or intentionally, we take swift, corrective actions.” She said police should be celebrated for that.

But Awad also brings a lot of new experiences to the police department. She’s not just the first Black woman to be chief in the county; she’s also part of the LGBTQ community. Awad and her wife have a daughter together.

So, after a vociferous defense of policing, Awad conceded that the nation was at a pivotal point in police-community relations, and that things will be changing.

“We must be willing to have conversations with one another beyond our comfort zones related to race, equity, diversity, inclusion and opportunity,” Awad said. “Not to encourage division, but to provide for greater understanding of one another and to unite us.”

“For the betterment of the community, Anne Arundel County PD, we are the change our community is expecting,” Awad added.

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, who said he chose Awad over six other candidates who interviewed for the job, introduced the new chief. Most of the other candidates were from around the region.

Awad’s appointment also comes with the support of the county council and the Anne Arundel County Fraternal Order of Police.

“I had no doubt that once every member of the council met with our new chief that they would support the decision, and I was right in that. It was a unanimous vote,” said Pittman, who put Awad up for a confirmation vote with the county council even though a change to the charter amendment requiring that hadn’t taken effect yet.

“The feedback that I got from all seven council members was that they were very impressed and very pleased with this choice,” Pittman said.

The City of Hyattsville announced that Deputy Chief Scott Dunklee will take over as acting chief for Awad there as a nationwide search for a new chief gets underway.

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