Montgomery County’s first female police chief, Carol Mehrling, died on Sunday night in an assisted living facility in Derwood.
Mehrling was 67 years old. She had Alzheimer’s.
Mehrling grew up in Silver Spring and graduated from Montgomery Blair High School and Montgomery College with honors. She attended Towson State University, graduating cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science, according to a bio from Montgomery County.
In 1971, she joined the department’s all-female aid bureau, the only part of the police department where women could work at the time. As time went on and restrictions on where women in the police department could work were lifted, she joined the all-male Narcotics Division as an undercover officer with the rank of corporal.
She set some firsts in the police department throughout her years of service. She was the first female sergeant with patrol car duty. In 1995, she became the first female police chief in the county after being appointed by Douglas M. Duncan, the Montgomery county executive at the time.
Under Mehrling, Montgomery County’s police department became the second largest in the nation, with 939 officers, to be headed by a woman, according to the Montgomery County Commission for Women.
She joined the small group of about 70 women nationwide who were police chiefs as compared with about 17,000 male counterparts at the time.
“She was a pioneer and a trailblazer for all who came after,” said County Executive Ike Leggett in a statement.
Mehrling served in the police department for 28 years, retiring in 1999.
“I never met her, but I know that she was a huge influence on all the female officers in Maryland,” said Jonathan Burns, an intern for the Montgomery County Police Department.
She was awarded the 2000 Montgomery County Women’s Fair Alpha Award, an honor established that year recognizing groundbreaking women, for being the first female police chief.
“Chief Mehrling was ahead of her time in so many ways,” said Chief of Police Tom Manger in a news release. “Not only was she a trailblazer for women in police work, but she brought a compassion and spirit for public service that made her a great cop.”