Terrence B. Sheridan, described as a "by the book" law enforcement officer, already has taken aim at what he sees as Baltimore County's biggest crime problem: armed robbery.
"It's groups of people terrorizing people," said Mr. Sheridan, 52, who was tapped yesterday to become the county's new police '' chief.
He said that because the chief's job was offered so suddenly, he hadn't developed a strategy. "I don't know yet how the problem is manifesting itself and what the patterns are yet to know what exactly to do about it," he said.
Mr. Sheridan, the county's executive assistant for student safety and a 30-year state police veteran, will head the department beginning April 5. He will replace Chief Michael Gambrill, who is leaving for a job with an armored car company.
Mr. Sheridan, who grew up with Chief Gambrill in Parkville and played with him in neighborhood football games, said it will be hard to follow in his footsteps. He said he plans to continue Chief Gambrill's work and to bring the department "into the 21st century."
"He is the epitome of what a law enforcement officer is," Mr. Sheridan said of Chief Gambrill. "I had mixed feelings when I heard he was leaving. I didn't want to be part of anything that would hurt Mike."
Mr. Sheridan, who lives in Lutherville with his wife and three grown children, said his family and law enforcement career have left him with little time for hobbies. "My work is my hobby," he said.
He began that "hobby" at the state police Annapolis barracks in December 1965. Within eight years he was a sergeant and was heading the organized crime unit of the intelligence division.
Seven years later, as a second lieutenant, he was commanding the Easton barracks and supervising 58 troopers who provided the main police service for three counties.
Colleagues describe him as "fair and a by-the-book" trooper who rose quickly through the ranks. A top-notch criminal investigator, he worked tirelessly to solve the 1990 slaying of Trooper Ted Wolfe, they said.
Mr. Sheridan's most recent position was assistant chief in charge of the special operations division, handling criminal investigations, undercover operations and other units. He was a lieutenant colonel when he and two other high-ranking officials retired in 1995, shortly after Col. David B. Mitchell took over as superintendent, leading some to say they were forced out.
Colonel Mitchell said yesterday that he looked forward to working with Mr. Sheridan, who he said had a "proud record" as a trooper and criminal investigator.
Mr. Sheridan, whom colleagues describe as low-key, said that after 30 years of police work, he was ready to leave the state police.
"Things were changing there, and after a long discussion with the new chief, I thought it was time for me to move on," he said.
He was hired by County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III in September to make the schools safer, a position created after a report detailed problems with disruptive behavior and violence.
"I've never seen anyone from the outside embraced by the people in the school system as Terry Sheridan has been. He has a very good insight about what goes on in a very large school system." said Dr. Richard Milbourne, Mr. Sheridan's supervisor.
Although he never thought it would happen, Mr. Sheridan said, he began to miss police work.
"After 30 years, it's hard to get it out of my system," he said. "As I worked with the county police, I felt the twinge to go back."