Police career an early calling

Goal: Former Howard Deputy Chief Jeff Spaulding, being sworn in today as head of the city force, says he was 8 when he realized law enforcement would be his life.


January 02, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

While Jeff Spaulding was growing up in Mount Airy, his interest in police work was fueled by the Hardy Boys books and stories about the FBI. He was about 8 years old when he knew that law enforcement would be his life's calling.

After serving as a community service cadet for the Howard County police while still in high school, he became a patrol officer, a detective, a district commander and, eventually, a deputy chief in that department.

Today, he is to be sworn in as Westminster's chief of police.

"I got here one step at a time," he said.

Spaulding, 49, was chosen from more than 60 candidates to head Carroll County's largest municipal police force.

"It's a major loss for us," said Howard County Executive James N. Robey, that county's former police chief. "I've often thought Jeff would be chief here. A lot of people go through life with one or two things in their career that stand out, but Jeff's entire career stands out to me."

Spaulding said he is looking forward to bringing his experience to his new job.

"When I came to the job 30 years ago, we did look at our job as law enforcers," Spaulding said. "I think the community-policing organizational mindset changes you to understand your role is different now. The community expects more than just cuffs and ticket books. They expect help."

Spaulding grew up in the Poplar Springs neighborhood of Mount Airy, where his parents and grandparents lived. He is raising his family there, with his two daughters attending the middle school and high school he attended.

While he was a student at Glenelg High School, he started working with the Howard County Police Department as a community service cadet.

Spaulding married his wife, Holly, in April 1979, four years after the two met at a Rod Stewart concert at the University of Maryland, College Park. They were strangers who happened to sit in the same row at the concert and attend the same off-campus party afterward.

He attended night school at Catonsville Community College and earned an associate degree in criminal justice in 1980. While an officer with the Howard County police, he continued going to school at night at the University of Maryland, where he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1984.

"I remembered thinking how I wanted to go out and fight crime and work the street," he said. "Then came a time when I worked as a detective where I had to make a decision to try and provide more for my family."

He was a patrol officer and detective before holding supervisory positions in specialized units. As head of the vice and narcotics section, he targeted prostitution.

In 1989, he returned to night school to earn a master's degree in administrative sciences, which he received in 1994 at the Johns Hopkins University.

Spaulding continued his rise through the department's ranks as a commander of the Northern patrol district before supervising about 300 officers as the deputy chief of police for operations.

Last year, he assumed command of the administrative side of the department, dealing with education, training, budgets, fleet equipment, 911 and animal control.

He said that as a manager "you get more from sugar than vinegar" and that collaboration with other agencies is extremely important for police work.

Spaulding is a believer in community policing.

"The whole issue of problem solving is integral to community policing," he said. "Crimes are not problems themselves but symptoms of another problem. We try to teach our officers to look beyond the crime to patterns and circumstances that create the environment for crime."

Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay said he's going to miss his right-hand man.

"He's hard-working, intelligent and with integrity above reproach," Livesay said. "Jeff is the only guy I know who gets in here earlier than I do, and he leaves after everyone else."

Livesay said Spaulding's impact was felt most in the department's long-term projects, such as the training center, the animal control facility and the new booking center.

"He can handle a large number of projects at once," Livesay said. "He knows how to delegate at all times to all departments."

And he's willing to relax. Spaulding plans to continue a tradition of taking a week off every summer for a fishing trip to southern Canada, where he once caught a 7-pound bass.

Maj. Dean A. Brewer has been acting chief of the Westminster force since August, when Roger G. Joneckis retired as chief after 29 years with the department.

Westminster Mayor Kevin E. Dayhoff appointed Spaulding to head the 43-member police force after a four-month search.

Westminster's Common Council unanimously confirmed Spaulding for the $82,000-a-year job at its meeting Dec. 8.

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