A new deputy police chief’s in Takoma Park
By Rick Henry
Some people just aren’t meant for retirement.
New Takoma Park Deputy Police Chief Antonio Williams is one of those people.
In 2017, Williams, 54, retired as Chief of Police for the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), a well-earned reward after a 31-year law enforcement career.
“It was the first time in my life I had free time and no job,” he said in an interview on Nov. 13, his first day on the job in Takoma Park. “It went great for the first few months.”
While he said he appreciated the opportunity to spend time with his wife and family, he quickly grew restless and began exploring opportunities to re-enter law enforcement.
Enter the City of Takoma Park.
“I had a passion to get back into municipal policing (where he spent more than 20 years with the Baltimore City Police Department), and I saw Takoma Park had an opening for a Police Chief, so I applied,” he said.
“I was attracted by the City’s commitment to community policing and the support of the community for the police as a whole.”
Though he did not get the position – current Police Chief Antonio DeVaul was selected – he was a finalist and came away impressed with both the City of Takoma Park and its approach to policing.
So when the Deputy Chief position became available, Williams threw his hat back in the ring. This time, he was selected and he couldn’t be happier. “Takoma Park is a nice city and a beautiful area,” said Williams, who currently resides in his native Baltimore.
More important than the city’s aesthetics, Williams said, is the relationship between the community and the department, a situation he said is different than his previous positions.
Prior to his stint at UMB, Williams served in a pair of other academic law enforcement positions, as Chief at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and for the Baltimore City School System. Because of their unique nature, those positions differ from municipal policing, he said.
“In a university setting, everyone wants to be there, and it is little more isolated,” he said. “There is greater depth and breadth in municipal policing, and you are serving a much more diverse group of people.”
“I worked with people who were under some very difficult circumstances,” he said of his time in Baltimore.
Williams stressed that Takoma Park is known as a community that works in partnership with the police, one of the factors that most appealed to him about the position.
“I was attracted by the City’s commitment to community policing and the support of the community for the police as a whole. You don’t get that everywhere,” he said.
The relationship between the community and police is fundamental to Williams. His basic law enforcement philosophy is embodied in a quote he shared from Sir Robert Peel, Chief of the London Police Department in the 1820s and the man responsible for many law enforcement innovations that are standard procedure today (rank structure, uniforms, communication systems). Peel said, “Police are the community and the community are the police.”
Dipping into history isn’t surprising given Williams’s academic background. He holds an Associate’s degree in Law Enforcement from the Community College of Baltimore, a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Baltimore, a Master of Science degree in Management from Johns Hopkins University, and is currently a candidate for a Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland, University College, and a Master of Divinity from the Capital Seminary and Graduate School. He is also a 2005 graduate of the FBI National Academy.
This strong belief in lifelong learning is a key component that he plans to impart on other members of the department. Williams wants to encourage and support other officers in continuing their education.
Through his studies at the seminary, Williams has come to view law enforcement as a calling. “There is a spiritual perspective to the work, especially in the capacity of reconciliation,” he said.
As to the practical component of his position as Deputy Chief, Williams will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the department, overseeing patrol, criminal investigations and administration.
When he is not at the department or in class, Williams will spend time with his wife of 31 years, two adult daughters and a 3-year-old niece whom they are adopting.
Despite his school and family commitments, Williams is raring to go on the job. “I’m very excited to be here and I look forward to engaging and strengthening existing community partnerships and building new ones,” he said.
Again, retirement just doesn’t suit some people.
This article appeared in the December 2018 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.