Q&A with Melissa Hyatt, Baltimore police area commander

FROM SUN MAGAZINE

  • 37, Area commander, Baltimore police  Lt. Col. Melissa Hyatt remembers as a child watching her father, a Baltimore police commander, affixing his medals to his uniform, shining his shoes and speaking with pride about being a police officer. She didn't have a blanket -- she dragged around a police shirt.  "I grew up seeing his passion for the badge, and there was never really anything else I wanted to do," she said.  Now a 16-year veteran, Hyatt has taken on some of the department's toughest assignments, including seven years with its SWAT team, whose female members can be counted on one hand. She's considered by many in the department to be a "rising star," and her stock is rising so fast that in early July she was promoted to lieutenant colonel after seven months leading the high-profile Central District.  "Wherever she's put her footprint, she's done a wonderful job," said Lt. Col. Darryl DeSousa, who once sought her out to turn around a struggling unit. "She's the future of this Police Department."  Hyatt grew up in Randallstown and joined the department through the old Police Corps program after graduating from the University of Delaware. She has since earned a master's degree in management from the Johns Hopkins University.  She says she has always wanted to measure up to her colleagues. When it comes to things like physical-fitness standards, she said, "if I could only qualify as a woman, to me it took something away."  This year, Hyatt was selected to take part in a United Nations training program in Sweden with law enforcement officers from around the world. It was focused on "intercultural leadership."  "The U.N. has figured out that you can't go in and say, 'This is what we need to do to fix your country,'" she said. "That's completely applicable to the neighborhoods of Baltimore -- we need to hear what [the residents] think and what they need to fix their problems." -- Justin Fenton
37, Area commander, Baltimore police Lt. Col. Melissa Hyatt… (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun…)
July 22, 2013|By Justin Fenton | The Baltimore Sun

What was the hardest lesson you've learned so far?
The importance of leadership and guidance. "In a job as tricky as this, people need that. I've always tried to make myself available for people."

What's a fact about yourself that will surprise people?
She's a vegetarian and likes to bake.

What do you do to relax?
Running, often accompanied by her shepherd-mix dog. "I love to exercise," she said.

Your (other) dream job would be:
"I always thought if the Police Department didn't work out I might be a firefighter. Or stunt double."

What's on your playlist?
Her musical interests are diverse, including hip hop, country and classical music. After some prodding, she sheepishly admits to training for marathons with soundtracks of Sublime, Usher and Taylor Swift.

What is your favorite book?
Reading is typically dominated by course work for her role as an instructor at the University of Maryland, University College. When she gets time to read, it'll be "some kind of light, light reading. Something totally mindless."

What's your favorite vacation destination?
"Anywhere tropical with sand and sun." For her next trip though, she's eyeing the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

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