The Howard County Police Department was founded in 1952. Its mission is to provide a sense of safety and security for everyone by protecting life and property, reducing the opportunity for crime and disorder, enforcing criminal and traffic laws, assisting victims and promoting positive community engagement and effective partnerships.
As of 2022, the Howard County Police Department has 509 sworn officers and 241 full-time civilians. The 911 communications division and Animal Control also fall under the police department.
Chief of Police
Police Chief Gregory Der is a 25-year veteran of Maryland law enforcement. After spending more than 19 years as a member of the Howard County Police Department, he retired to become the Chief Deputy at the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s office. He was appointed Howard County Chief of Police by County Executive Calvin Ball in January 2022.
As a tenured police executive, Chief Der has experience in roles ranging from patrol-level enforcement to command administration. In his most recent role with the Maryland State Fire Marshal, he oversaw both operations and administrative functions. Chief Der has an established track record fostering collaborative relationships among officers, supervisors, community members, civilian workers, union leadership, and elected officials.
Chief Der is a seasoned investigator with two decades of investigative experience at local, state, and federal task force levels. He is committed to community policing and is skilled at respectful, productive engagement and responsiveness to citizen concerns. Chief Der also has experience as a negotiator who has managed mediation between competing interests and articulated policy for varied stakeholders.
Chief Der served as Chief Deputy for the Maryland State Fire Marshal from 2017 to 2021. During those years, he was the highest-ranked sworn member of the agency. He oversaw budget planning; managed employees at six regional offices across Maryland; coordinated fire, arson and explosive investigations; created policy; and oversaw fire prevention efforts and data collection.
During his nearly two decades with the Howard County Police Department, Chief Der served for eight years as the President of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 21. In that role, he represented interests of the membership, and articulated issues related to training, morale, equipment, disciplinary matters, grievances, and promotional processes. He oversaw contract negotiations to enhance public safety efforts and foster a positive work environment for officers.
His time at the HCPD also included his work as a task force investigator for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a property crimes detective, hostage negotiator, school resource officer (SRO) and patrol officer. Chief Der served in the narcotics and patrol sections of the Easton Police Department from 1997-1998.
A Howard County native, Chief Der graduated from Mt. Hebron High School. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership from The Johns Hopkins University, an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice from Carroll Community College, and is a graduate of the Senior Management Institute for Police.
Our Mission and Values
Our core values at the Howard County Police Department are Integrity, Pride and Community. You’ll see those words on our patch logo displayed throughout the agency. You’ll also see them in our actions day in and day out.
It is the mission of the Howard County Police Department to provide a secure environment for the citizens of Howard County by protecting life and property, reducing the opportunity for crime and disorder, enforcing the law, assisting victims and providing other police-related services as required by the community in a manner consistent with the values of a free society. HCPD embraces the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police. We are committed to resolving problems collaboratively through a partnership between the department and our community.
Integrity: The department and its personnel can only succeed in their mission if we maintain our integrity. Our authority to deprive people of their life, freedom and property comes from the trust bestowed upon us. Once this trust is broken, by an individual or by the department, our actions are rightfully called into question. The department and its employees must hold themselves to a standard that is beyond reproach.
Pride: The department is a proud institution and works to develop this pride in its sworn, civilian and volunteer personnel. We are proud of our rich tradition of providing quality police services to the residents and visitors of Howard County. We are proud to be a part of a noble profession that is called upon to maintain order in a free society. We are proud of the real partnerships we have with the people we serve. We are proud of the highly motivated, highly trained, and highly respected personnel we have.
Community: The cornerstone of this department is the relationship we have with the community we serve. Our ability to be effective in carrying out our mission is based on the credibility we have with the community. Understanding that we are a part of, and not separate from, the community is critical. Although we are granted full-time responsibility for policing the community, we cannot do it without the approval and cooperation of the public. The department strives to enhance this relationship in several ways: By ensuring that each police contact is carried out fairly and with respect; by seeking input from the public on our programs, procedures and priorities; and by being active in community programs and charities.
A note about community-oriented policing: The paradigm of community-oriented policing began to evolve within law enforcement communities during the 1970s in response to increasing crime rates throughout the nation; the failure of other, more traditional, police programs; and the rapid deterioration of many neighborhoods. Community-oriented policing is an organizational philosophy with a decentralized approach aimed at reducing crime and improving the quality of life within a community. It is a team-oriented approach to problem solving with the police and members of the community working together, on an equal basis, toward a common goal. The Howard County Department of Police is committed to this philosophy and supports programs that reflect these values.
Our Goals and Objectives
Department-wide Goals & Objectives for Fiscal Year 2023
- Enhance agency responsiveness by making full use of the recently approved patrol strength increase and reducing response times to priority one calls for service.
- Fully implement all provisions of newly passed police reform legislation.
- Fully integrate BWC program into the department's daily operations.
- Strengthen community engagement and agency responsiveness by expanding communication with community stakeholders and foster collaboration between officers and residents.
- Competitively recruit, train, and retain the highest-caliber candidates possible.
- Enhance use of available and new technologies, including drone-equipped units, cloud storage, and network advancements.
- Emphasize officer moral and mental health, with recognition that officer wellness is closely related to job performance and attrition.
- Conduct a comprehensive review of HCPD's fleet assets with a view toward fuel savings, decreased carbon emissions, and less downtime/ maintenance costs.
The Howard County Department of Police obtained national accreditation from The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc., known as CALEA, on July 28, 1990. Re-accreditation has since been earned ten times, without lapse or conditions. The department had the honor of being named a Flagship Agency in both 2006 and 2009, a prestigious designation when the Commission offered this category. The agency was last recognized on November 17, 2022.
It is an honor to achieve this status within the law enforcement community and we proudly display the CALEA emblem. The standards established by CALEA help law enforcement agencies strengthen crime prevention and control capabilities, formalize essential management procedures, establish fair and nondiscriminatory personnel practices, improve service-delivery, solidify interagency cooperation and coordination, and boost citizen and staff confidence in the agency.
In between on-site Assessment, the department submits an annual compliance report and undergoes off-site review of standards by the Commission.
Members of the public wishing to provide comments regarding HCPD’s compliance with CALEA standards, engagement in the service community, delivery of public safety services, and overall candidacy for accredited status may do so at the public portal. These comments can be in the form of commendations or concerns. The overall intent of the accreditation process is to provide the participating agency with information to support continuous improvement, as well as foster the pursuit of professional excellence.
Comments can be made on the CALEA website.
2022 Annual Report
The “Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004,” allows qualified active and retired law enforcement officers to carry a concealed firearm nationwide. It is the intent of the Howard County Police Department to offer its retirees the opportunity to certify under the parameters of the law. Retirees must follow the process outlined in the documents below and reapply annually.
Emma (Mott) Young
1965: Emma (Mott) Young, was the first African-American employee hired by the police department in 1965. She later had a distinguished career with the Maryland State Police, from where she retired, before later returning to Howard County to work in the North Laurel community policing office.
Lt. Herman Charity
1968: Lt. Herman Charity (retired) was the first African-American cadet in 1968 and first African-American police officer in 1970. He retired as a lieutenant in Internal Affairs in 1998.
1968: Joan Cook, hired in 1968, provided administrative support for nearly every police chief in HCPD’s history and is the longest-tenured employee in history. She retired in 2017 after more than 48 years of service.
Lt. Karen (Matthews) Burnett
1984: Lt. Karen (Mathews) Burnett (retired) became the first African-American female police officer in 1984. She retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2014 while serving in the information and technology division.
Capt. Richard Hall
1991: The late Capt. Richard Hall was the first African-American officer promoted to the rank of captain in 1991. He retired as commander of the Management Services Bureau in 2002.
Capt. Tara Nelson
2004: Capt. Tara Nelson (retired) was the first African-American female promoted to the rank of captain in 2004. She retired in 2009 as the commander of criminal investigations.
Major Kevin Burnett
2007: Major Kevin Burnett (retired) was the first African-American promoted to the rank of deputy chief in 2007. He retired in 2008 and now works for the Howard County Board of Education as director of school security.
Chief Lisa Myers
2019: Chief Lisa Myers (retired) was sworn-in as the first African-American and female police chief. She began her career in 1990 as a civilian crime lab technician and entered the police academy in 1994. She retired in 2018 as the captain of the human resources bureau and returned as Chief of Police from 2019-2021.
Cpl. Scott Wheeler, End of watch: June 18, 2007
During the early morning hours of June 18, 2007, the Howard County Police Department lost a dedicated officer and friend. Cpl. Scott Wheeler was working a speed enforcement detail and was struck by a vehicle he was attempting to stop for a speeding violation. Wheeler was dedicated to the profession. He received a Commendation Certificate at the 2007 Awards Ceremony for his work in alcohol enforcement during the 2006 Merriweather Post Pavilion concert season. During his six and a half year career, Wheeler was named Police Officer of the Month on three occasions, received a unit citation and was named one of the agency’s Top DUI Enforcers in 2002. Wheeler graduated from the HCPD special weapons and tactics school and served as a member of the decentralized tactical team. Wheeler was equally dedicated to his favorite football team, the Oakland Raiders. Friends and family remembered him best for his infectious laugh and his black and silver painted face and Raiders costumes on game days.
Recruit Ofc. Roger Dale Cassell Jr., End of watch: Nov. 2, 1994
On Nov. 2, 1994, Recruit Ofc. Roger Dale Cassell Jr. collapsed following a training exercise in the police academy. He was 28 years old. Cassell was a well respected, enthusiastic police recruit, and the department had very high expectations for this native son of Howard County. Cassell joined the Howard County Department of Police in September 1994 and was on the path to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer. His interest in law enforcement seemed to be a natural development: Both his father and brother work in law enforcement. Cassell was a decorated war veteran and received the Army Achievement Medal and Maryland Governor’s Citation for his accomplishments in the Persian Gulf War. He was an avid sports fan and an all-county football player in high school.
Ofc. Randolph "Randy" Brightwell, End of watch: May 29, 1961
Ofc. Randolph “Randy” Brightwell was shot and killed on May 29, 1961. He was gunned down on Fels Lane in Ellicott City during a car stop following an armed robbery. Both suspects were apprehended a short time afterward. Brightwell was 33 years old and the father of two small children. Brightwell was one of the first K9 handlers for any county police agency in the state of Maryland. His K9 partner Prince was working with him when he was killed. In tribute to the ultimate sacrifice made by Brightwell, the police department posthumously awarded its highest commendation, the Medal of Honor, to Brightwell.
Howard County Fallen Heroes from Other Agencies
Shaft S. Hunter, Maryland State Police, End of Watch: May 21, 2011
Maryland State Police Trooper First Class Shaft S. Hunter was killed when his patrol car collided with the back of a tractor trailer that was parked on the shoulder of I-95 in Howard County. It is believed he was pursuing a speeding motorcycle when the collision occurred. Hunter had served with Maryland State Police for 11 years.
Theodore D. Wolf Sr., Maryland State Police, End of Watch: March 29, 1990
Maryland State Police Cpl. Theodore "Ted" D. Wolf Sr. was shot and killed during a traffic stop on I-95 on March 29, 1990, by two suspects smuggling drugs in a stolen vehicle. Wolf was assigned to the MSP Waterloo barrack and worked closely with many Howard County police officers.
Frank J. Miller, Howard County Deputy Sheriff, End of Watch: June 7, 1946
Howard County Deputy Sheriff Frank J. Miller died of a heart attack after struggling with a prisoner on June 7, 1946. Miller had worked as a deputy sheriff for 29 years, often patrolling Ellicott City and Elkridge prior to the establishment of the county police.
Charles T. Weber, Howard County Constable, End of Watch: Nov. 10, 1924
Constable Charles T. Weber died on Nov. 10, 1924, from injuries sustained after being dragged alongside a vehicle. When Weber stepped up onto the running board of an occupied vehicle, the driver suddenly sped off. Weber suffered multiple injuries and died three days later as a result of the incident. He had served as a constable for the first district since 1915.