Capitol Heights names interim police chief
Maryland State Police provide officer while city continues its selection process
A Maryland State Police officer is temporarily filling in as the town of Capitol Heights' police chief as the Town Council continues its search for a permanent replacement.
First Sgt. Peter Spaulding, 43, of St. Leonard will be taking a temporary leave from his post as commander of the La Plata Maryland State Police Barrack to be Capitol Heights' interim police chief for the next three months, starting today, Mayor Kito James announced at a Tuesday evening press conference at Capitol Heights' town hall.
"I think it's a great opportunity for me," said Spaulding, who grew up in Beltsville. "It's basically stepping out of my comfort area. We're primarily a traffic barrack. I'm all for community policing, working with the community."
The town received more than 40 applicants for the position, James said. The town originally wanted a permanent replacement by the end of February but James said town officials must do their due diligence in selecting the right permanent candidate and realized they needed a short-term solution.
James contacted the Maryland State Police in late February about filling in the spot. The state police recommended Spaulding for the job and on March 14 the Town Council selected Spaulding as a temporary replacement. Spaulding is a 17-year member of the Maryland State Police with more than 10 years of supervisory experience and roles as a rear patrol trooper and criminal investigator, James said.
Capt. Mark Carter, chief of staff for the Maryland State Police, said the department does get requests from municipalities to fill in police department vacancies and said based on the resources they have, they try to help when they can.
"It's important for us to help the local municipalities because everybody has crime problems," Carter said.
Capitol Heights's Deputy Police Chief Darrel Piper, who served with the Capitol Heights from 1992 to 2007 and returned in March 2010 after a stint with District Heights' Police Department, said the town has mulled over asking the state police in past years to fill in chief vacancies.
Piper has been running the department since the city fired Jeff Dahn on Oct. 25. Dahn had been the chief for eight months, but was on extended medical leave for more than his final two months as chief.
Piper said with Spaulding in place, decisions that are solely the chief's responsibility will no longer be put on hold, such as hiring additional officers. Spaulding said he will begin to assess the department's needs today but it is too early to tell what his exact recommendations will be.
Prior to Tuesday, Spaulding did not get a chance to survey the town, but Piper said he is confident that he can bring Spaulding up to speed about the town's crime issues. Piper said one of the main issues is robberies, and police are working with Metro Transit Police to reduce robberies near the Capitol Heights Metro Station. He said he also is looking forward to working with Spaulding on pedestrian, aggressive driving and seatbelt enforcement on Old Central Avenue.
"I'm sure part of that energizing [the department] will involve rigorous traffic enforcement which is something I know I'll enjoy," Piper said. "I think we're going to have fun."
James said it was an administration promise that they would reform the town's police department, which included hiring more officers and bringing the force numbers up to 10 around the time the fiscal year ends on June 30. There are currently five officers, including Piper and one volunteer officer on military leave.
"We're going to trust his instincts on getting caught up to speed pretty quickly," James said.