BY JAROD J. TOWERS
It has been an honor and privilege to serve the City of Hyattsville as your chief of police over the past 14 months. As we enter a new year, I am thankful to our community for your continued partnership. Together we are working to ensure Hyattsville is a safe place to work, visit and call home.
Much of my early tenure with Hyattsville has been focused on recruitment and the retention of our high-quality officers, improving organizational efficiency, and ensuring our policies are aligned with the core values of community policing. These are the building blocks for a world-class police department, which would not be possible without support from the mayor, city council, and our city administrator, Tracey Douglas. Throughout it all, I remain most excited about our incredible team of sworn and civilian public servants and the positive contributions to building community they make every day while serving with honor and integrity.
A main focus for the last year has been to ensure that the Hyattsville Police Department (HPD) is appropriately staffed with officers who reflect our community’s diversity and values. Police departments across the country are struggling with staffing shortages, and we are no different. Thanks to city leadership, we have improved recruitment through pay incentives and increased benefits for our officers and dispatchers. In 2022, we pledged to the 30×30 Initiative which ensures inclusive policies and that at least 30% of our officers will be women by 2030.
The HPD’s commitment to our community includes prioritizing our police officers’ health, wellness and training. In the last year, we added several new positions, including a training coordinator and a compliance manager. These positions allow us to continue implementing and reinforcing training programs on de-escalation tactics, drug overdose responses, active shooter events, and responses to other types of emergencies. Additionally, the HPD engages in implicit bias training and works to put equity and inclusion at the forefront of our public safety efforts.
In 2022, we successfully launched our grant-funded Mental Wellness Check-In (MWCI) program, one that we believe is the first of its kind in the country. The MWCI program requires all sworn and department civilian employees to meet regularly with a licensed therapist. The program is designed to ensure that those who serve are prepared to serve and have access to support when they need it.
The growth of our city and our agency has also meant that we have outgrown our current facility. The city broke ground for the new police and public safety headquarters building in September 2022, with the opening scheduled in 2024. The building, centrally located at 3505 Hamilton Street, will include a large community room and a space dedicated to expanding our mental health programs. The new facility will have a computer lab for training, as well as space for our working dogs, and it has been designed to ensure the separation, security and privacy of victims and witnesses. The new public safety facility and our new positions are key to meeting our community’s expectations and providing the services we all deserve.
We believe in the importance of building relationships with our residents. Whether it’s partnering with Hyattsville Community Services to deliver holiday meals, sponsoring National Night Out and Trunk or Treat, or our favorite, Shop with a Cop, we love engaging with the Hyattsville community. Part of building that relationship is keeping the community informed to improve their safety. The HPD is working to add tools to our website and design outreach materials to improve transparency and provide access to relevant and timely crime statistics. We will continue to share emergency community alerts through Nixle, provide community information on our website, and to increase our social media outreach. We encourage all residents to sign up for Nixle alerts by texting your zip code to 888-777 and follow us on social media to receive critical information and good news stories.
I cannot promise that the HPD will be perfect in everything we do. I do promise we will be a department that places people first and is committed to serving all people equally and respectfully.
I wish safety, health, and happiness to you and your loved ones in 2023. Together, we will keep Hyattsville a safe place to raise our families and continue to enjoy everything our great city has to offer. My door is always open. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I or anyone within our agency can be of assistance. The Hyattsville Police Department is here for you.
Jarod J. Towers is the Hyattsville Police Department chief.
The views expressed in this column belong to its author. The Hyattsville Life & Times reserves the right to edit “From Where I Stand” submissions for brevity and clarity.