Former leader of Maryland troopers becomes head of university police force

David Mitchell, 59, has decades of experience.
David Mitchell, 59, has decades of experience. (Bill O'leary - Washington Post)
By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 14, 2010

David B. Mitchell knew there was a good chance some students would cause trouble on the streets around the University of Maryland if the men's basketball team defeated rival Duke.

So before the game, the veteran lawman asked firefighters to douse trash cans so they couldn't be set on fire. He went to bar owners and liquor store operators along Route 1 and asked them not to sell bottles of beer that could be used as missiles and to please use paper or plastic foam cups. He reminded them to be vigilant in checking IDs that night.

That was in 2002. And it paid off.

Maryland won. Students streamed into the streets. There were some minor disturbances, but nothing like the mini-riot that had ensued after Maryland won in 2001, when business owners suffered tens of thousands of dollars in property damage, or in March, when there were scores of arrests and a video surfaced of police beating a reveler.

"It wasn't a major debacle," Mitchell said of the 2002 victory.

At the time, Mitchell was superintendent of the Maryland State Police, whose troopers played a supporting role in maintaining order around the university after the game.

Mitchell has started a new job that will allow him to have a more daily and direct impact on efforts to keep the peace on campus and surrounding streets. On Monday, Mitchell, 59, assumed the post of chief of the U-Md. police force, which has 100 sworn officers and 50 civilian support staff members.

Mitchell comes to the job with decades of experience as a police leader. He was the Prince George's County police chief from 1990 to 1995 and headed the Maryland State Police from 1995 to 2003. He also served as secretary of the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security and has 39 years of experience in law enforcement.

He also has experience at college campuses, having taught at Johns Hopkins.

And he knows the University of Maryland, since he's a graduate and sent one of his three children there.

John A. "Rodney" Bartlett, president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, said the 2002 basketball episode showed Mitchell's strengths as a police commander. Bartlett was the leader of the county police union for much of the time that Mitchell was Prince George's police chief, and he sometimes clashed with Mitchell on labor issues.

But Bartlett praised Mitchell's abilities as chief. "Smart. Hands-on, proactive. Thinks out of the box; welcomes new ideas," Bartlett said. "I don't think Prince George's has had a chief as good as him since he left."

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