Police: Inside the agency
Office of the Chief
Chief of Police: Police Chief William J. McMahon is the highest-ranking officer and leader of the Howard County Department of Police. Chief McMahon works to develop goals, formulate plans and implement programs and new policies designed to strategically solve problems. In addition, the chief meets with community groups and business leaders to address concerns, solicit input and maintain a direct connection to the citizens of Howard County. The Office of the Chief can be reached at 410-313-2203.
Internal Affairs Division: The Internal Affairs Division handles police personnel complaints, which range from alleged employee misconduct to matters of performance deficiencies. All complaints are investigated with adherence to established and accredited policies and in accordance with the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. The Internal Affairs Division can be reached at 410-313-5800.
Learn about filing a complaint
Office of Public Affairs: The role of the Office of Public Affairs is to communicate effectively with the public and the media. The team is responsible for keeping the public and news media informed about significant police-related events. Each day, the office provides the media and the public with news releases, incident briefings, crime reports and other information. The office handles all marketing and public relations for the department, including the monthly departmental newsletter, the department’s Annual Report and web site. The office can be reached at 410-313-2236.
Research and Planning Section: The Research and Planning Section is primarily responsible for coordinating policy development, grant administration and national accreditation compliance. The section also conducts all requested research and contributes to the development of new programs and initiatives. The section manages the detailed development of all written directives and ensures that all policies are consistent with applicable laws, departmental goals, accreditation standards and the latest in law enforcement practices.
Quality Assurance Unit: The Quality Assurance Unit is responsible for providing a staff inspection function for the police department. Through regular audits, the inspections ensure adherence to departmental policies.
Liquor Inspector Unit:The Liquor Inspector Unit investigates alleged violations of liquor licensing laws, completes ongoing compliance checks and engages in a variety of underage enforcement activities for alcohol violations.
Honor Guard: The Honor Guard presents the colors at all departmental graduations and formal ceremonies and represents the department at police funerals and special events.
Police Foundation: The Howard County Police Foundation is comprised of local business leaders who provide assistance to the department by sharing business and management expertise. The foundation provides funding for annual Bear Trax youth programs, manages a scholarship fund and sponsors the annual Howard County Police Pace.
Learn more about the Police Foundation
Citizens Advisory Council: The Citizens Advisory Council meets monthly to facilitate the flow of information to and from the police department and to engage in creative problem-solving efforts. The council then makes recommendations to the chief of police in an effort to improve the efficiency of police services.
Learn more about the Citizens Advisory Council
Police chaplains: Police chaplains represent various faiths and participate in a variety of assignments, including formal ceremonies, death notifications, last rites for the critically injured and assistance to family members in traumatic situations.
Patrol Operations: Patrol Operations are divided into two districts: northern and southern. Each of the districts is divided into smaller areas called beats. Officers work in 12-hour shifts. Patrol officers respond to the community’s calls for service, enforce traffic and criminal laws, address community needs and initiate actions based on their own observations.
Special Assignment Section: Both districts have a Special Assignment Section that aids patrol efforts by providing various services as needed, including surveillance and saturation patrols.
Bike Patrol Program: The Bike Patrol Program is especially useful in Columbia’s unique expanse of footpaths, open space and parks.
Duty Officers/Police Service Support Techs: Duty officers, also known as police service support technicians, work the front desk at each district station and handle incoming calls and walk-in inquiries, as well as write certain types of police reports. The northern district duty officer can be reached at 410-313-3200. The southern district duty officer can be reached at 410-313-3700.
Community Resource Officers: The department has six community resource officers who address community needs and concerns and conduct crime prevention efforts in each district.
Learn more about Community Resource Officers
Police Cadets: Police cadets are men and women at least 18 years of age who have aspirations of becoming police officers and provide a wide range of administrative and operational services.
Operational Preparedness Division: The Operational Preparedness Division is comprised of the Intelligence Unit, and the Crime Analysis and Gang Investigations Units. The Intelligence Unit works to provide information on criminal activity to patrol officers and investigators. The Crime Analysis Unit analyzes data on reported crimes and criminal offenders. That information is used to identify crime trends, develop suspects and assist in determining appropriate enforcement strategies. The Gang Investigations Unit is responsible for the investigation and development of intelligence information as it relates to potential and actual gangs and gang-related activity in the county.
Youth Division: The Youth Division includes the Youth Services Section and the School Resource Officer Section. The Youth Services Section is responsible for providing prevention and intervention services for youth through a variety of programs. In Bear Trax youth programs, police personnel serve as counselors and coordinators at annual events and camps. Other programs include the Community Athletic Program, a traveling sports trailer offered during the summer months, the Youth Police Academy and PLEDGE Camp. The section is also responsible for investigating all reported runaways in the county. The Diversion/First Offender Program addresses the needs of juveniles who are identified as non-criminal offenders or minor first-time offenders. The department’s Explorer Post 1952 offers young people an opportunity to learn about law enforcement and volunteer at events. The School Resource Officer Section consists of two sergeants supervising officers assigned to each of the 13 Howard County high schools. A school resource officer mentors students, conducts instructional classes and handles disturbances and arrests.
Learn more about youth programs
Operations Support Section: The Operations Support Section is comprised of the Alcohol Enforcement Unit and Community Outreach Unit. The primary mission of the Alcohol Enforcement Unit is the strict enforcement of the underage drinking laws. The Community Outreach Unit focuses on assisting the county’s senior citizen and multi-cultural populations.
Learn more about the multi-cultural and senior liaisons
Investigations & Special Operations Command
Criminal Investigations Bureau: The Criminal Investigations Bureau serves as the primary investigative arm of the department and also assists crime victims. The bureau is committed to solving cases that have the greatest impact on the safety of residents, from crimes of violence to felony drug violations.
Criminal Investigations Division:Members of the Criminal Investigations Division handle serious cases, such as violent crimes, robberies and property crimes, which often result in hours of surveillance operations, covert details and search and seizure warrants, as well as interviews of hundreds of victims, witnesses and suspects.
Special Operations Bureau
Vice and Narcotics Division: The Vice and Narcotics Division is responsible for investigating crimes involving the manufacture, sale, distribution and use of controlled dangerous substances. It also investigates gambling, prostitution and organized crime.
Family Crimes and Sexual Assault Division: At the Child Advocacy Center, detectives work with other agencies to investigate child abuse, sexual assaults and other domestic violence incidents. Victims of domestic violence may call the police department at 410-313-3741, the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County at 410-997-0304 or the 24/7 helpline at 410-997-2272. The National Domestic Violence hotline is available at 1-800- 799-SAFE.
Domestic Violence Center
Learn about protective/peace orders
Victim Assistance Section:The Victim Assistance Section provides crisis intervention, follow-up contact, advocacy and support services to crime victims. Advocates can answer questions victims may have concerning investigations and court case and can refer victims to services including counseling, support groups and emergency assistance. The section can also assist victims in obtaining any property not held in evidence by the police, States Attorney’s Office or court. For more information, call 410-313-3712.
Emergency Response Division:The Emergency Response Division includes the Tactical Section, K-9 Support Unit, Aviation Unit, Civil Disturbance Unit, Critical Incident Negotiations Team and volunteer Auxiliary Officer Program.
Learn about the auxiliary police program
Traffic Management Division: The Traffic Management Division coordinates efforts between the Traffic Enforcement Section, which investigates fatal and serious traffic collisions; the Motorcycle Unit; the Automated Enforcement Section, which houses the Red Light Camera and False Alarm Reduction Program; and the School Crossing Guards Program.
Learn about traffic safety programs
Learn about red light cameras
Learn about false alarm reduction
Volunteer Mounted Horse Patrol: The Volunteer Mounted Horse Patrol is made up of citizens from around Howard County who have agreed to donate their horses and their time to patrol open space and park area in Howard County. These non-sworn officers act as ambassadors and an extra set of eyes for the Police Department in areas that are typically more difficult to access by officers.
Human Resources Bureau
Education and Training Division: The Education and Training Division is comprised of the Entry Level Section and the In-Service Section. Together, they coordinate all police training for new police recruits and current police officers’ recertification classes. The curriculum for entry-level training consists of 31 weeks of classroom instruction followed by 14 weeks of field training. The police department partners with Howard Community College to allow applicants with only high school diplomas to apply and complete an associate’s degree while working to become a police officer. The division also coordinates the Citizens Police Academy.
Management Services Bureau
Learn about the Citizens Police Academy
Personnel Section: The Personnel Section coordinates employment activities in conjunction with the county’s Office of Human Resources for all hiring, payroll, employment and benefit-related issues.
Recruitment and Screening Section: In 2009, the Recruitment and Screening Section processed applicants for one academy class. The police department hires new officers and lateral officers on a continuous basis.
Learn about working for HCPD
Critical Incident Stress Management Team: The Critical Incident Stress Management Team is comprised of officers who volunteer to provide support for members of the department who are involved in a traumatic incident.
Support Services Division: The Support Services Division is comprised of the Forensic Services Section, which processes crime scenes; Computer Forensics Unit, which analyzes electronic devices as part of investigations; Quartermaster Section, which handles vehicle fleet management, supplies and inventory; and the Property and Evidence Section, which maintains safe and secure custody of all evidence.
Information and Technology Bureau
Animal Control Division: The Animal Control Division investigates animal cruelty cases, rescues endangered animals, accepts unwanted pets, administers a pet adoption program, conducts humane education programs and operates the county’s Animal Control facility at 8576 Davis Road in Columbia. For more information, call 410-313-2780.
Learn about Animal Control, view applicable laws and view adoptable animals
Communications Division: The Communications Division houses Howard County’s 911 Center. The division is comprised of specially trained call-takers, dispatchers and supervisors who handle all police, fire and emergency medical service calls, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Information Management Division: The Information Management Division consists of the Records Section and the Computer Operations Section.
Budget Fiscal Section: The Budget Fiscal Section reports directly to the Administration Command and is responsible for the financial administration of the department’s operating budget, multiple grants and various revenue accounts. This section maintains and reconciles internal expenditure reports, authorizes purchase requisitions, initiates all accounts payable requests and completes financial reports filed with various agencies for multiple grants.