The Prince George’s County Council voted Tuesday to approve Mark Magaw as the county’s police chief, officially giving the reins of the 1,500-member department to the longtime veteran known for his humility and low-key management style.
Magaw, 52, had been serving as interim chief since December, when Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) appointed him to replace Roberto L. Hylton. After his official swearing-in ceremony, Magaw said that he initially had some reservations about taking the job but was swayed by his dedication to the department and Baker’s personal plea that he take over.
Magaw, a married father of four, said he lives in the Eldersburg area but plans to sell his house there and relocate to Prince George’s.
“It’s not about the money. It’s not about the prestige,” Magaw said. “It’s about being asked by an honest man for help.”
Eight Prince George’s County Council members voted to confirm Magaw as chief. The ninth member, Leslie Johnson (D-Mitchellville) — who pleaded guilty last week to destroying evidence in a federal investigation and on Tuesday said she will resign July 31 — left before the hearing and did not vote.
In about seven months on the job, Magaw has had a sort of baptism by fire.
The 27-year veteran, who previously served as a deputy chief and a narcotics commander, took over at a time when crime had reached historic lows, but morale in the department had sunk with it. Commanders and others widely credit Magaw with improving spirits in the department by delegating more responsibilities to lower-level supervisors and approaching those who work for him in a nonconfrontational manner.
At the beginning of the year, Magaw launched a special anti-crime initiative to stem a rash of killings. January alone saw 16 homicides, including 13 in the first 12 days of the month. The county has had 60 homicides so far in 2011, compared with 48 at the same time last year.
Magaw said in an interview that while homicides remain a concern, overall crime is down 6.7 percent this year compared with the same period last year. He said that during his tenure as chief, officers will continue their successful efforts to crack down on car theft rings and repeat violent offenders. Department brass are also preparing to put officers back to work in county schools, replacing the sheriff’s deputies who had served there, Magaw said.
“There’s a lot going on,” he said.
Magaw, whose salary of $162,967 will probably increase now that he has been approved, faced virtually no resistance at his confirmation hearing. The Prince George’s state’s attorney, sheriff and NAACP president all testified favorably about him. Baker lavished perhaps the highest praise on his nominee, saying of Magaw’s appointment, “If I have done nothing else right in becoming county executive, that choice was the right choice.”
Only Prince George’s Police Maj. Victoria Brock, who is in charge of records, offered any hint of reservation, saying that while she believed Magaw would lead with integrity, he “knows that I’ll always be watching.”
Also Tuesday, the County Council voted to approve Thomas M. Himler as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Gail D. Francis as director of the Office of Finance. Himler will earn a salary of $175,000, and Francis will earn a salary of $170,000, authorities said. Johnson did not vote on their confirmations.
Staff writer Miranda Spivack contributed to this report.