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Having completed his first year as the chief of the Takoma Park City Police Department, Antonio DeVaul called his tenure “a whirlwind.”
“I’m happy to be in Takoma Park; we have more work in progress, and it’s been a year of building,” he said in a phone interview. “I’ve worked to reestablish connections, and we have monthly meetings at each of the schools.”
DeVaul, who grew up in the city and took the position on Jan. 2, 2018, after a 25-year tenure with the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, said building connections and relationships with the “various community stakeholders,” including immigrant and youth communities, became an immediate priority within in his first year.
“I noticed that undocumented members of the immigrant community were uncomfortable contacting the police even when they’re the victim[s],” he added.
Rising through the ranks at the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, DeVaul began his career as a patrol officer before taking the helm of the agency in April 2012. Though the agency has a budget of $14.1 million, compared with $8.6 million for the Takoma Park Police Department, DeVaul said the commitment to policing remains the same – but that a smaller agency creates a “more intimate environment” and allows for more community interaction.
Before his appointment, the agency rotated three police captains – Daniel Frishkorn, Tyrone Collington and Richard Bowers – to lead the department on an interim basis following the resignation of Chief Alan Goldberg in March 2017, for personal reasons.
Following Goldberg’s resignation, the city undertook a nine-month national search before announcing DeVaul’s appointment.
DeVaul said he is proud of the three officers who took on the acting responsibilities. Since DeVaul’s appointment, Collington joined the Bladensburg Police Department as deputy chief, while Bowers became the chief of the Greenbelt Police Department.
“One person provides for more-unified and consistent leadership,” DeVaul said. “Rotation is not the most- productive arrangement.”
Having earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in management and organizational leadership from Johns Hopkins University as well going through the FBI academy, DeVaul explained that he is a proponent of both formal and informal education. For the 2019 year, he hopes to send two captains to the Northwestern University School of Public Safety, an education program specializing in law-enforcement leadership.
In 2016, Takoma Park experienced one homicide, two rapes, 27 robberies, 40 assaults, 101 burglaries, 293 larcenies and 33 auto thefts, while in 2017 there were no homicides, three rapes, 29 robberies, 19 assaults, 55 burglaries, 359 larcenies, and 30 auto thefts.
Though Takoma Park Police PIO Catherine Plevy explained the agency is still gathering crime data for 2018 and no preliminary statistics are available, DeVaul said he is confident the crime rate “has not increased” throughout the year.
The city experienced an officer-involved shooting, on Jul. 25, 2018, when Sgt. Charles Hoetzel shot 19-year-old Kenneth Carroll during a foot chase that crossed into Washington, D.C.
DeVaul said the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia cleared Hoetzel, declaring the shooting justified, and adding “the officer and individual involved are okay.”
With the city budget to be drafted in April, DeVaul said he hopes to have a dedicated community resource officer to continue doing outreach.
“I’m also a believer of technology as a force multiplier,” he said, adding that the agency will look at acquiring and deploying trailer camera “areas with higher crime activity.”