8 After criticism from the community and the police union, former police Chief Frederick W. Chaney resigned and 25-year county police veteran James N. Robey stepped in, as police tried to rebuild an ailing public image.
Chaney, who had served in the job for about 2 1/2 years, resigned in January after Charles I. Ecker edged out former County Executive Elizabeth Bobo, who had appointed Chaney.
The replacement of a police chief in Howard County is nothing new-- all newly elected county executives have brought in their own chiefs -- but Robey's appointment brought with it some high hopes from both the public and the department.
County police faced a tough year in 1990, when community members lashed out against Chaney and the department for what it perceived as aloofness.
Robey, who grew up in the Howard County mill town of Daniels and worked his way up through the department ranks, won immediate approval from the police union.He also pledged to work on making the department more involved with the community.
Among Robey's public initiatives was the creation of a community policing program, in which officers, neighborhoods and landlords work together to stamp out crime.
The program has just begun in the Columbia communities of Stevens Forest Apartments and Roslyn Rise. Drug offenders are subject to eviction through criminal proceedings, and officers attempt to build rapport with residents at thecomplexes.
Robey's program has begun to put the department back on track in some of the neighborhoods that were critical of the police. But the long-term effect of the program is uncertain, and Robey said he expects some officers will resent the idea of being a "beat cop."
Whether or not the program survives, Robey's impact on the county this year is certain. His new program is changing the way police officers respond to problems in county neighborhoods.