In June, Melissa Hyatt was sworn in as the Baltimore County Police Department’s 14th chief and its first female chief. The Jewish daughter of a cop, Hyatt grew up in Randallstown and always knew she would be a police officer.
What drew you to police work?
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.
This is a tough time to be a cop. What do you say to people who are critical or unsure of police?
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.
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?
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 … sees that they can commit to the job and achieve their goals.
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?
Snowballs. I like chocolate cream with double marshmallow. I also like Old Bay on anything, and watching the Ravens.