New Hyattsville police chief resolves to ‘co-produce public safety’
By Heather Wright
After serving his last day as Cheverly’s police chief, on Oct. 2, Col. Jarod J. Towers started his position as Hyattsville’s ninth permanent chief of police on Oct. 3. We had a masks-on chat in his office, accompanied by Media Relations/Mental Health Programs Manager Adrienne Augustus, with whom Towers seemed to have an easy and complimentary rapport. During our 30-minute conversation in late October, Towers talked about his military service, his time with the Cheverly Police Department and his vision for Hyattsville’s police department.
Towers said that, as a child, he had a family friend who started as a dispatcher for a South Jersey park police department and eventually became its chief. “I kind of had those childlike googly eyes for police cars and the uniform,” he added.
The awestruck eyes of a child became the opened eyes of a committed adult, as Towers started his military service in 2002 and eventually served in the Iraq War as a U.S. Marine. His military experiences led him into police service and shaped his ideas of what police officers should be. “Those who have been warriors and have defended this country through service, especially combat service, know what a warrior is,” noted Towers. He emphasized that police officers should instead consider themselves guardians: “We are not warriors. We are servants, and we are guardians, and we’re supposed to protect people and protect their rights.”
His time in Iraq also led him into deeper relationships with people of various races and backgrounds. In particular, he bonded with a fellow soldier, Fernando, who was from Mexico. Although most of the platoon largely chose to socialize with their racial and ethnic groups, Towers, who is white, said those in the Latino group invited him to play soccer with them every day. “They ended up calling me El Adoptado, which means ‘the adopted one,’” he noted with a smile.
Towers talked about using his abilities to build relationships and understand different perspectives to improve the culture of the Cheverly Police Department. Before becoming chief, he noticed that the department was often on the defensive with the community, seeing many residents as resentful towards police. As chief, Towers worked to change this perception by pointing out how the community was invested in the department and urging department members to consider residents’ perspectives. With this cultural shift, the department began to work more collaboratively with the Cheverly community.
In mid-April 2021, Towers posted a message to a group planning to hold a prayer vigil in support of the Cheverly police as the verdict against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin approached. He thanked the participants and asked them to also pray for the “families and communities across the county that have been directly impacted by the broken trust that police have caused.” During our conversation, Towers explained, “I felt as though the community needed support more than the police department did.”
When the subject of the interview turned to his new department, Towers indicated that his long-term priorities include enhancing officer and community mental health, increasing department efficiency, targeting the root causes of crime, and developing an inclusive department that more closely represents the community. In a post-interview email, Towers noted, “I am focused on launching a new recruitment campaign, focused on targeting more minority, female and local recruits.”
As an immediate goal, Towers is concentrating on building relationships both inside and outside the department, becoming familiar with city operations, and understanding what matters to the community. Reflecting this goal, our 12:15 p.m. interview was sandwiched in between two meetings, one of which went overtime — Augustus noted that Towers would have seven short minutes for lunch.
Towers expressed a commitment to departmental transparency. “I think that anything that directly impacts this community, we should be 100% transparent as long as it doesn’t impact an investigation.” And he underscored that the department also had to consider privacy, especially for victims. “For example, if you’re a victim of sexual assault, there’s a way we can be transparent without putting your personal information out there,” he noted. “We are the community’s police department, … so the community needs to know what’s going on.”
Towers ended the interview by discussing the importance of collaborating with community members and city staff to identify and address the root causes of crime in the city. He used carjacking as an example: If Hyattsville has zero carjackings this month and then three next month, the conversation becomes “we have a carjacking issue,” he said. He noted, however, that the real issue could be that “our youth need direction and need our attention and need things to do.”
“We have to work together, and we have to have people willing to come sit at the table to help us address those issues, because law enforcement can’t do it on their own,” he implored. “In the 21st century, we have to co-produce public safety.”