Female police captain's 24-year career in Arundel marked by a series of firsts

January 11, 1995|By Dana Hedgpeth and Gregory P. Kane | Dana Hedgpeth and Gregory P. Kane,Sun Staff Writers

As much as she enjoys being a police captain, Mary M. Williams secretly desires to play the role of Bloody Mary in "South Pacific."

That may surprise some colleagues of Captain Williams, who on Monday became the first woman to head the Anne Arundel County Police Department's Criminal Investigations Division.

Her 24-year career has been marked by a series of firsts. In 1988 she became the department's first female captain. In 1989 she became the first woman to command a county police district.

When she joined the force in 1970, female officers had to wear skirts and pumps. "And now here I am in a skirt and pumps again," said Captain Williams, 45.

Still, nearly a quarter-century has passed, time enough for her to rise through the ranks and follow her interests.

She has a certificate in Swedish massage techniques, takes courses in sailing and scuba diving, and has even been in a horror movie. "Maximxul" was filmed in Annapolis in 1990.

"It was a very bad movie," she said, as she sat behind her desk at division headquarters on the grounds of the Crownsville State Hospital. "I was the No. 2 juror. It was a flash. You had to look for me and then I was gone."

In 1993, she got a master's degree in administration from Central Michigan University's Fort Meade branch. Sheila Maden, human resources director at the U.S. Naval Academy, was one of her classmates.

"I remember the first thing she said to me when I met her. 'Hi, I'm Candy Williams, I'm a captain in the Anne Arundel Police Department, and I don't fix tickets.' That line speaks to her and what she's all about," said Ms. Maden. "I think that says a lot about Candy. She'll do a lot for you, but she knows where to draw the line."

Captain Williams, who lives in Annapolis with her dog, Matilda, came to police work because she was bored with her job as an insurance company clerk. She had graduated from Annapolis High School three years earlier. A friend on the county police force suggested she join. She agreed to give it a try, but with one condition. "I didn't want to be a crossing guard," she said.

In 1974, she was promoted to sergeant. Nine years later, she became a lieutenant. She made captain in 1988, working in the crime prevention division before taking over the Southern District in July 1989.

Officers at the Southern District remember her as a hard-working leader who also had a "soft side."

"She would do things other shift supervisors wouldn't think about," said Sgt. Don Rowland. "Like she found out when everyone's birthday was and made sure a cake was in here to celebrate. Things like that are common in the private industry, but they usually don't happen at a police station."

Cpl. William Robinson, who worked with Captain Williams when she was his supervisor at the Northern District, recalled that she "never had any qualms about jumping in whatever the situation."

That was the case one night in the late 1970s when Corporal Robinson and two other police officers were in Ferndale, trying to subdue an out-of-control drug addict. They called for back-up.

"When Candy got there she just plowed right in with us," he said. "To see a female wade right into the hoopla showed she had a lot of guts to all the guys."

He added: "Some women go through this job of law enforcement trying to be twice as good as a man. That only makes men look bad and makes most of them mad. But Captain Williams was different. She was never like that. She never seemed above you and she got right in there with you to help out."

Early in 1991, Captain Williams took command of the police academy in Davidsonville.

"It was probably not my favorite assignment," she said, "but it's one in which I learned a lot."

Three years ago, she became the department's night commander and virtually ran the entire force after hours.

Last week, Acting Chief Robert Beck told her she would be taking over the 120-officer criminal investigation unit. Her appointment was part of a general reorganization by Chief Beck. She replaced Capt. Michael Fitzgibbons, who has been assigned to command the Eastern District.

"I was not sent here to straighten things out," Captain Williams said. "[The unit] was running very well."

Captain Fitzgibbons said Captain Williams' easy-going management style means "she should have no problem getting along with personnel in CID."

Sandra Savine, an instructor at the Baltimore School of Massage in Woodlawn, said Captain Williams applies that same personable approach outside the world of law enforcement.

She recalled admiring a pair of green and purple beaded earrings Captain Williams was wearing. "I told her how much I liked them, and the next week she came in with the same pair for me. She had made them herself and wouldn't let me pay her a cent for them," Ms. Savine said. "That's just not a usual thing for people to do. . . . It reminded me how giving, sensitive and thoughtful she is."

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