New police chief sets goals

Teare says he wants to bring Anne Arundel force to full strength

December 24, 2006|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,sun reporter

As James Teare Sr. prepares to take the helm of the Anne Arundel County Police Department on Jan. 1, chief on his mind is filling the depleted ranks of sworn officers.

There are about 35 vacancies, not including those to be filled by the 18 cadets due to graduate from the police academy in late spring. The department is approved for 681 officers. The number of openings does not count officers away for other reasons, such as vacation or sick leave.

"I would like to get to that 681," Teare said in a recent interview, adding that recruiting to replace retiring officers will be a challenge as well as a priority.

Having a full complement of police officers would put the former deputy chief for operations on the road to reaching other goals: greater police visibility, more community-based policing, and more proactive work among police, neighborhoods and businesses. Every officer, he said, is on the job to serve the public.

"I would assess the workload now to see if we can get more positions out into the community," said Teare, 43.

He has been brainstorming with others in the department as well as consulting with the new county executive, John R. Leopold, the former state legislator who tapped Teare to succeed P. Thomas Shanahan as chief. Teare will be paid $96,166 a year.

Chronic shortages wear on officers, said O'Brien Atkinson IV, president of the county police union.

"People have to come in early or they are held over late. Chief Teare recognizes what this can do to morale," Atkinson said.

"He hasn't had time to forget where he came from," he said.

Of his 19 years with the department, Teare has spent about half in the field.

Those who know Teare and who've met with him in the transition to his becoming chief said that his quiet demeanor should not be misinterpreted; he is not a pushover. Rather, he's methodical and approachable, they said. He's also not known as a micromanager. While Teare said it is too early to discuss changes, people expect an easy transition as Teare steps up from being deputy chief.

"He is very easy to talk to. He knows where he came from. That is extremely important. His identity is not based on his rank," said Sheriff Ron Bateman, a retired police officer who preceded Teare as the commander of the Northern District.

Teare, the third of seven children, was born and raised in southern New Jersey. He joined the Army after his 1981 graduation from a vocational high school. Despite studying auto mechanics, he won't work on cars, even his own, but says the knowledge has helped in traffic investigations and assisting stranded motorists.

His position as a military police officer brought him to Fort Meade, where he met his wife, Deborah. He liked the area - he describes the county as "Norman Rockwell-esque" - but wanted the stability for his young family that a military career would not allow.

But he liked police work. From the time he was a child, Teare said, he hated bullies. He didn't want to fight them, but he thought someone should stand up to them. And he liked a job that took him out of the office and provided variety.

After five years in the Army, he became a member of the Anne Arundel County Police Department in 1987. In 1994, he left patrol to spend nearly three years in high-stress special operations, frequently working on the team that responds to barricades and other extraordinary situations. During those early years, he often worked in special operations for Rick Tabor, who recently retired from the department and became chief deputy for the sheriff's office.

"He was a low-maintenance subordinate. He was heavily relied on. I knew then he would go places," Tabor said, describing Teare as always professional and prepared, "never a goofball."

To some, his military background remains evident. "He would `sir' you to death. ... He called me `sir' even when I called him the other day to congratulate him," Tabor said.

Teare worked at the police academy from 1997 to 1999 before moving into management. Teare advanced from sergeant to posts overseeing budgets, planning, procurement, staffing and more before being named commander of the Northern District in 2003 and rising to the No. 2 position in 2005.

Teare has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Maryland University College. Though Teare investigated cases in the Army, he has not been a detective in Anne Arundel.

Teare said he doesn't see this as a hole in his resume: "What I like to be is a problem-solver."

Shanahan, who recently announced his retirement, has said he is proud that Teare is taking over.

Though Teare is widely viewed as Shanahan's handpicked and groomed successor, Leopold said he based his selection mostly on having known his fellow Pasadena resident for many years, his insight into Teare's leadership of the Northern District from 2003 to 2005 and campaign-trail talk.

"He was very responsive to my constituents in Brooklyn Park and Pasadena," Leopold said.

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