New voice of Police Department

Spokeswoman gets hectic introduction to law enforcement

July 27, 2000|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Sherry Llewellyn is in her third week as spokeswoman for the Howard County Police Department, and so far it's been the calmest.

Llewellyn is the first civilian to serve in media relations for the department. In addition to learning the basics of her job, she has had to become familiar with how a police station works.

What were supposed to be a few weeks of low-stress training turned into hands-on experience with newsworthy crimes. During her first week on the job, Llewellyn had to deal with media inquiries for a string of armed robberies, a sizable ecstasy drug bust and a kidnapping.

The Ecstasy bust and kidnapping of a woman from her Howard County office building marked Llewellyn's first television appearances in Howard County.

"It was scary at first, but the reporters went easy on me since they knew I was new," she said about the TV segments.

The nerve-wracking kidnapping situation ended in the capture and arrest of a suspect and the safe return of the hostage 4 1/2 hours after the ordeal began July 14.

To round out the day that Friday - and adding another experience to her first week - Llewellyn gave a news conference to brief the media on the results of the kidnapping investigation.

As she wrapped up the news conference and gave a few additional comments to print and TV reporters, Llewellyn breathed a sigh of relief. She thought she was done with her first week.

Wrong.

"Trial by fire," Llewellyn said with a laugh.

Week's not over yet

Later that afternoon, Howard County police were called to an Ellicott City home to investigate a stockpile of weapons and explosives.

As the complex story developed, Llewellyn knew she would be at the office late and back in early the next Monday to catch up.

What's more, Llewellyn knew she would be going it alone for her second week: her trainer, former public information officer John Superson, was on vacation.

Llewellyn said she returned to the office July 17 with trepidation, and with good reason: She found herself in the midst of the media blitz for information on the Richmond Laney weapons case.

With each new twist and turn in the Laney case, Llewellyn found herself asking investigators almost as many questions as the news people were asking her.

"The detectives have been very understanding and helpful," she said. "I think I'll be up to speed on the police part in no time."

Police Chief Wayne Livesay said Llewellyn seems to be "fitting in very well."

Married to the law

She's got some help at home, too.

Her husband, Dan, is an officer in the Prince George's County Police Department.

Her interest in her husband's job led her to want to "help promote the good work that officers do."

"This job really combines my professional experience with my personal interests," she said.

Before joining the Howard County Police Department, Llewellyn worked in media relations for a lobbying group affiliated with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In that job, she said, she learned about youth violence and substance abuse - two topics she likely will deal with in her new job.

Llewellyn also has worked in public relations for a Capitol Hill television station.

There, she distributed packaged news to stations across the country.

Although she never thought she would be working for a police department, she said she is enjoying her job.

"Most police officers want to be in law enforcement, not work with the media," she said. "So they wanted someone in media relations, someone who knows how important deadline is, to fill this position."

Livesay said that having a civilian spokeswoman will free an officer for the streets and enhance relations between the police force and the public.

Promoting the police

"We were looking for someone with some marketing in their background, someone who would promote the good of the Police Department rather than just be totally reactive," Livesay said.

The police chief and three panelists unanimously selected Llewellyn from a pool of 65 applicants, he said.

"She has a tremendous ability to get along with people," Livesay said. "Everyone will buy into Sherry Llewellyn."

Llewellyn graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland in 1995.

She is from New Jersey, but has lived in the Baltimore-Washington area since college.

Llewellyn has a vested interest in Howard County because she lives here. She has been a resident of Columbia's Long Reach village for two years.

Even the way Llewellyn found the position fits perfectly into her job description. Her husband pointed it out while they were reading the employment section of a newspaper.

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