Sam R. Leppo

Carroll County: Longest tenured police chief in state helped department grow with community.

August 09, 1999

FOR MORE THAN three decades, Sam R. Leppo navigated the uncertain waters of politics and public safety with the skill of a consummate professional. As Westminster's police chief for 23 years, the longest active tenure of any chief in Maryland, Mr. Leppo was widely respected by his fellow officers and by elected officials of the city he served.

His death came last Wednesday at age 53 -- strikingly young for a man who'd become a local police institution -- in an off-duty auto accident in Frederick County. It was a great loss for the city and the broader community.

While low key and often reserved in the public eye, Mr. Leppo was a vigorous leader of a police department that grew from 7 officers when he joined in 1967 to 42 today.

From bulletproof vests for officers to a new radio communications system to a new police department building, the chief left his mark on public safety in the Carroll County seat. A stickler for detail, Mr. Leppo's well-prepared requests for equipment and programs typically found favor with a string of city mayors and council members. His lack of public criticism of government decisions and his refusal to grandstand served him and his department well.

Even when his force labored in the dreary basement of Westminster's Longwell Municipal Building for a dozen years, Mr. Leppo was loath to complain. And when a new police headquarters opened on Locust Street in 1993, the building's designers incorporated numerous suggestions from the chief.

A cop's cop, a straight shooter -- these are the just tributes from friends and colleagues of Mr. Leppo, who joined the Westminster police right out of the Army.

He is also remembered as a man who cared about his community, served in church and recreation group positions and organized various neighborhood policing efforts. His legacy is the enhanced safety of his community.

Pub Date: 8/09/99

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