Livesay chosen as chief of police Officers applaud pick, who will serve in an acting capacity for now

January 06, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Maj. Wayne Livesay, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the Howard County Police Department, will become the county's next police chief on Saturday, said County Executive Charles I. Ecker.

Howard County police officers applauded the move, saying they were getting a demanding boss with "road cop" instincts who also understands the dynamics of Howard County.

Livesay replaces Chief James N. Robey, who is retiring Friday to run for county executive.

"He's a good cop and a people person," Ecker said. "Those qualities are what make a good police chief."

Livesay, 46, will be acting police chief during Ecker's remaining year in office. Ecker said he wanted to leave the permanent choice -- which could be Livesay -- to his successor.

Ecker said he faced an agonizing decision: Livesay or Maj. Mark Paterni, who heads the department's administrative arm.

Ecker and high-ranking police officers said both men were excellent choices, but Livesay offered more operational experience and played an important role in key community policing programs.

"He's had more of an opportunity in that area," Ecker said. "Major Paterni didn't have that. But both men would make excellent chiefs."

Howard County police officers said they were pleased that they were getting a chief with 25 years of police experience in Howard County.

"The bulk of the department is operations, managing human beings," said Cpl. John D. Paparazzo, president of the Howard County Police Officers Association. "It's not about how to deal with police cars and buildings. [Livesay] has had no trouble making critical decisions when lives were on the line."

Livesay, who rose from patrol officer to SWAT team leader to major, said he is excited but a little nervous.

"This is just a great organization," Livesay said. "This will be a challenge, but I want to keep us moving forward."

Supports community policing

Livesay said he wanted to address his officers before announcing any changes, but he did say he would continue to support community policing. Livesay, who headed the highly praised Long Reach crime Hotspot initiative last year that put plain-clothes officers on patrol, said he would look to expand those programs.

But the new chief also said an integral part of that effort would be "zero tolerance," where officers arrest suspects in even the smallest crimes to deter future ones.

"We're not just going to hold community meetings," Livesay said. "We're going to keep locking people up."

Drug market is a concern

The area's burgeoning heroin market also presents concerns, and police and community leaders need to reach children before they turn to the deadly drug, Livesay said.

"If we don't get them now, we're going to pay the price for it later," Livesay said. "We have to do whatever we can on the prevention end. Heroin is going to make crack cocaine look mild."

Colleagues said Livesay -- described as a hard-working, intelligent, driven officer -- demands a lot from his troops.

"He works at things, he's a professional," said Paterni, who also began his career in 1972. "He doesn't just talk to hear himself talk, doesn't waste your time."

One captain remembers when Livesay was promoted to sergeant, then transferred to run the burglary section, a tough job for someone with no investigative background.

"I remember thinking, 'Here comes a guy with no experience,' " said Capt. Jeff Spaulding, commander of the northern police district. "But he hit the ground running, learned really fast."

Livesay grew up near Sykesville in Howard County, attended Glenelg High School and graduated in 1969. He worked in a machine shop for several years, before seeing recruiting posters for the Howard County and State Police. He joined the Howard force in 1972.

For several years, Livesay worked patrol, then was transferred to Howard County's first tactical unit -- an early version of a SWAT team -- and eventually became the squad's leader.

After four years, he was promoted to corporal and went back to patrol. But he was soon promoted to sergeant, and in 1987 he became the first permanent night-shift lieutenant.

A year later, he was heading internal affairs, then moved to special operations in 1990.

In 1993, he was promoted to captain and worked in administration, compiling budgets and helping to hire personnel. 1995, he became a major in charge of operations, where he oversees all the uniformed officers, detectives and tactical squads.

Pub Date: 1/06/98

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