In June, Melissa Hyatt was sworn in as the Baltimore County Police Department’s 14th chief and its first female chief. The daughter of a cop, Hyatt grew up in Randallstown and always knew she would be a police officer.
Q: What drew you to police work?
A: My father was a police officer in the Baltimore Police Department for 31 years. I retired as a colonel after working for the same department for more than 20 years. For a little over a year, I worked in the private sector, but I missed police work. I love being back in uniform. I love working with our officers out on the street or meeting with the community — I was at a community meeting last night. Everything about police work I find rewarding.
Q: This is a tough time to be a cop. What do you say to people who are critical or unsure of police?
A: This is a very challenging time for law enforcement, not just in Baltimore but nationwide. I definitely understand that there are people who are mistrustful of police. It just takes one bad situation to make people doubt. We have to keep trying to connect with people; we have to keep trying to make connections within the community and with individuals. Officers need to gain trust and build on that. It’s a relationship, and it’s one person at a time.
Q: What’s law enforcement going to be like in the future?
A: Law enforcement is going to be a continually evolving profession. The profession is going to be more diverse, because we know we have to have more officers that represent the communities that we serve. You will see more work that is victim-focused, providing more services to victims, and more work that is community-centered. It will be less about policing our way out of issues and more about working collaboratively. Whether it’s opioids or another issue, we have to do more than police.
Q: You are the county’s first female police chief and you were the first female sergeant on the city police department’s SWAT team. How do these firsts feel to you?
A: I never strived for any of these firsts. I was always competing against only those competing for these positions. But there is a responsibility that comes with being the first. It took me a while to understand that. It’s like what I was saying about diversity. When others see me in this role, they can envision themselves in the role. It’s encouragement for them. I hope this is a time in history where anything is possible. I hope the next police chief is in this department and they see that they can commit to the job and achieve their goals.
Q: You are a true Baltimore native — you grew up in Randallstown, you did your graduate work at Johns Hopkins University. What are your favorite local traditions?
A: Snowballs. I like chocolate cream with double marshmallow. I also like Old Bay on anything, and watching the Ravens.