Hyattsville makes history as it swears in first female, first African American chief of police
By EMILY STRAB — Hyattsville made history when its new police chief was sworn in.
On the afternoon of Dec. 13, Amal Awad was sworn in as Hyattsville’s Chief of Police, becoming only the eighth police chief in the city’s 132-year history. Moreover, she is the first female, first African-American, and first LGBTQ chief in the Hyattsville City Police Department’s (HCPD) history, as highlighted in the city’s press release and mayor’s post on Facebook.
“Today it is my honor to swear in Amal Awad as the city’s eighth police chief,” Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said during the ceremony. “Today is a historic moment, for a number of reasons. … Amal will be the first woman police chief for the city … she will be the first African-American woman police chief … she will also be the first LGBT police chief in the city of Hyattsville.”
In a packed council chambers, Awad took the oath of office administered by Hollingsworth. She was joined by her siblings, Carl and Mary, who attached the shoulder boards of her new office, and her wife, Jade, who pinned on her badge. Retired chief Col. Douglas Holland was also there with his wife and daughter to give Awad her hat and flowers.
“My heart is filled with excitement and pride as I accept this appointment and the responsibility that the City of Hyattsville has bestowed upon me,” said Awad upon hearing of her selection as the city’s next chief of police. “I look forward to continuing to work with the dedicated men and women of the City of Hyattsville Police Department to enhance relationships, reduce crime, and create opportunities so that all of our residents and community members feel safe, welcomed and valued. Together, our beautiful and welcoming city will continue to thrive.”
Before her promotion to chief, Awad had been serving as interim chief since July after the retirement of Holland, who had pushed for her hire as captain and deputy chief in April 2017. Since then she has become a presence in Hyattsville, reaching out to the community in person and through developing the police department’s social media communications. “I proclaimed her social media queen,” Mayor Hollingsworth said with a smile.
In her introduction of Awad, the mayor’s voice welled with emotion, joking that she had tissues at the ready. “There are some very bright days ahead for Hyattsville as well as for Amal and her family,” she said.
Hollingsworth cited Awad’s successful 27-year career of police service, which started in Hyattsville as a Prince George’s County Police officer and included positions as commander at Prince George’s County Police Department, District 2 Bowie Station, and as a major in the Office of the County’s Chief of Police. Many of Awad’s positions in her career as a police officer have focused on community outreach. Awad has a master’s degree in management from Johns Hopkins University where she was awarded JHU’s prestigious Public Safety Leadership Award.
But most importantly, Hollingsworth noted, was how in Awad’s service to Hyattsville over the last almost two years, “she has demonstrated that she will lead this department at the highest level.”
“Chief Awad quickly established herself as a respected leader of our police department and member of our community,” said Hollingsworth, in a press release from the city. “Residents have expressed loud and clear that they desire a police department that remains committed to community policing at the highest level, and I know without a doubt that Chief Awad will make them, and all of us, proud as the department’s next leader.”
In her statement to the crowd, the new chief gave an emotional speech about her mother’s presence through her in her promotion and how her mother’s support made her the accomplished person she is today, adding that her mother had “foreshadowed that I would one day become the chief of police.” Awad said that during her retirement, “I was attending to my life’s most personal highest calling, as I was home caring for my mother.” During that time she watched policing as a profession struggle on a national level in the media. After caring for her mother until her passing, Awad was ready to come out of retirement, “with so many incidents occurring across the country, and knowing full well that we as a collective had so much more to contribute and offer to our communities.”
Awad is already looking to the future of policing in Hyattsville and beyond, remarking that, “Little girls look to me with amazement and share their sentiments of pride and excitement as some exclaim, ‘Wow, our chief is a girl! How cool is that?’ I am approached by younger and older African-American men and women, and other women and men from various backgrounds, who simply want to take a photograph with me, thank me for my service, or relate with me regarding 21st century policing, our community, and its complexities.” Awad is poised to continue the work of her predecessor, Holland, in making the HCPD “one of the most progressive 21st century police departments in this region.”
Awad detailed what the future of the HCPD will look like under her watch, in a statement to the Hyattsville Life & Times:
The HCPD is positioned to quickly become one of the leading municipal policing agencies in this region. The foundation has been laid by my predecessor, retired Col. Douglas K. Holland. We are fulfilling our commitment to our community, equipped with the latest technology, trained with the most contemporary certifications, and exploring the final design phase for completion of our new police headquarters on Hamilton Street.
We will continue our focus on strengthening our relationships with all of our community’s members; we will continue our focus with our schools to ensure our children feel safe as they travel to and from school; we will continue our focus on ensuring we recruit the most talented and engaging police officers, and extend competitive incentives to retain them within our HCPD; we will continue to focus on officer safety and wellness, as a healthy HCPD will ensure that we deliver the best in service to our #HVL community. A Police Explorer Program may also be on the horizon, as we continue in our desire to guide, mentor, and serve our youth.