BALTIMORE COUNTY — Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt calls the police union’s vote, asking her to be removed from her position, a “distraction."
On Monday, the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4 passed a motion which stated its members have lost all faith in Hyatt to do her job.
“I certainly don’t seek out conflict, but I’m also not intimidated by it and I don’t back away from it," Hyatt told WMAR-2 News.
Hyatt, who was sworn in as Baltimore County's Police Chief in June 2019, defended her tenure as the county’s top cop in a one-on-one interview with WMAR-2 News Tuesday.
“All of this right now this is simply a distraction," she said. "And frankly, this just inspires me to continue to work harder.”
The union outlined several issues in a letter sent to county executive Johnny Olszewski, including a rise in violent crime. The union said she has failed to address the growing violence.
Hyatt admits it has been a challenge, but adds the county is making progress.
"This year, right now, our homicides are currently minus 50 percent, plus from where they were last year at this time and our officers are out there working incredibly hard. I'm very proud of them," Hyatt said. "At the end of the day, the safety of the community in Baltimore County, along with the welfare of our officers, are two incredibly important priorities and I'll continue to focus on both of those."
Police Chief Hyatt also addressed what the union called the final straw, which is when former county police officer Tia Bynum's name was read during a Baltimore County Police Memorial Service.
Bynum is accused of being an accomplice of Robert Vicosa in the kidnapping and murder of his two daughters.
Hyatt said she talked to some of her colonels about the service.
She said they all agreed to continue the tradition of reading the names of every active sworn member in the department who died over last 10 years.
"I agreed to maintain that tradition with that," Hyatt said. "Again, this year, it was the same criteria, a sworn member that had died over last 10 years. And certainly, following this year, we will evaluate that, but again this was consistent, and we continued with a longstanding tradition and one of the individuals who had been a part of that conversation is now the president of the police union."
Despite the vote to have her removed as the chief of police, Hyatt said she remains committed to leading the department.
"We are going to continue to focus on our mission and nothing is going to detract from that," Hyatt said.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski sent a statement, saying that he is "fully confident" in Chief Hyatt to lead the police department.
Hyatt also said she is open to speaking with the union's president, David Folderauer.
Hyatt released this statement in response to the union's vote:
On June 17, 2019, I was sworn in as the 14th Chief of Police for the Baltimore County Police Department. As a lifelong resident of our County, I fully appreciated the responsibility entrusted to me as the Chief of Police.
When I arrived, I quickly discovered that our Department already had a strong foundation and its members were dedicated and hard working law enforcement professionals. I also enjoyed a productive working relationship with the prior union leadership, which included open and frequent communication.
Unfortunately, a small group of my critics from within the current police union leadership have encouraged its members to request my removal from office. While I am disappointed to learn about this effort, I will not be discouraged.
For the past three years, I have had the honor to lead our Police Department and support the extraordinary efforts of our members.
Department members have the opportunity to participate in focus groups, listening sessions, and open forums to provide their feedback. This is in addition to establishing a dedicated police union liaison and an e-mail address that allows for direct communication between any member of the agency and myself.
My work has been, and will continue to be, focused on our commitment to crime reduction, building and maintaining meaningful relationships within the community, increasing accountability, expanding our employee wellness program, and providing the best training and equipment to our members.
I continue to be grateful for the support from the community we serve, our County Executive, and the County Council. Their collective investment in our mission is an integral part of making public safety a priority here in Baltimore County.
It is a challenging time to work in the law enforcement profession. I am extremely proud of the exceptional work that our members do on a daily basis, as we navigate together through unprecedented police reform legislation and a global pandemic.
I remain committed to leading the members of our police department and will not be deterred or distracted from ensuring that we continue to provide the highest level of service to all of the communities throughout Baltimore County.