Nearly four years after stepping into the void left by the sudden death of a popular Westminster police chief, Roger G. Joneckis announced his retirement as head of the department last night to the Common Council.
"The time has come for me to move on. I will be retiring on the last day of July," he said after the meeting, adding that he had no specific plan for future endeavors.
Joneckis, 49, has been with the department for nearly 29 years and was eligible to retire four years ago. He chose to stay on, however, to lead the department after Chief Samuel R. Leppo was killed in a car accident in August 1999. Joneckis, then a major and second in command, was named to fill the post held by Leppo for 23 years.
"I admire his dedication to the Westminster police force," said council President Damian L. Halstad. "It is very rare in today's world to find someone who's willing to dedicate almost 30 years to one job.
"He took over the job in difficult circumstances - the premature death of a revered police chief - and he provided great stability to the position over that time. That continuity was appreciated by everyone on the force. It made things a lot easier."
Joneckis, a Westminster native, began his career as a cadet with the Baltimore Police Department in 1972 while attending what is now Baltimore City Community College. He joined the Westminster department in 1974 and two years later was promoted to detective handling criminal investigations.
Joneckis maintained a low profile until his appointment as chief, most recently as the department's head administrator.
As the chief of the county's largest municipal police department, one of Joneckis' imperatives was to switch to a pension plan that would be attractive enough to keep veteran officers and attract recruits who officials said were being wooed by other departments with better plans.
The 43-member police force adopted the Law Enforcement Officers Pension System this year. It pays officers 50 percent of their salary after 25 years of service. Complaints from the rank-and-file quashed an alternate plan that would have given officers less of a payout and would have required more years on the force to become eligible for benefits.
"Roger helped me as chairman of the public safety committee make the case for LEOPS," said Councilman Roy L. Chiavacci, who retired from the state police after 25 years of service. "That's to his credit, he's always been interested in getting the benefits and tools necessary to attract and retain quality police officers for Westminster."
Joneckis promoted community-based programs such as the city's first Citizen Police Academy - which provides a behind-the-scenes look at police work - and a celebrity athlete golf tournament scheduled this month that will raise money for local causes. Still, he was criticized by some who said he was not involved enough in cleaning up troubled neighborhoods.
However, Joneckis sent more foot patrols into the Pennsylvania Avenue neighborhood and others beset by drug and other criminal activity. In August 2000, he placed an officer on the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force, which works covertly to collect information on dealers.
During his first year as chief, Joneckis ordered an investigation of a detective who resigned amid accusations from colleagues that he planted drugs on suspects. As a result of the investigation, several cases in which the detective was involved were dismissed. The detective denied wrongdoing and was never charged.