SILVER SPRING – Russell Hamill III started his career in the county sheriff’s office before spending the next 32 years with the Montgomery County Police Department (MCP) — moving up the ranks to his current title of acting chief.
In about a week, he will leave the department to become the Chief of Police in Laurel on June 9.
“It’s a full-service police department. It’s responsible for everything in the City of Laurel, and that’s what I am used to,” Hamill said.
Laurel is less than five square miles in size and has a population of about 26,000. Montgomery County is considerably larger, with more than one-million residents and 491 square miles. MCP has more than 1,300 officers; Laurel has 70.
Still, Hamill is excited to take over the reins of what he called “a very professional police department staffed with hard-working people.”
Another plus is that the lifelong county resident, who started working at the age of eight delivering newspapers in the Twinbrook area, will not have to move — thereby enabling his five children to stay in their schools and his wife to remain a homicide detective with the department he is leaving.
“I’ve been blessed” to work with MCP as an undercover officer, a member of the anti-crime unit, and the chief of detectives among other positions, he said.
Hamill said he is most proud of “actually being part of the team that closed” the murder investigation of the Lyons sisters, who disappeared back in 1975 in Wheaton. In 2017, Lloyd Welch, Jr. pleaded guilty to murder.
Hamill also has served in the police department’s budget office, personnel division, legal and labor division, policy and planning division and emergency communications center.
He was commander of the 2nd District (Bethesda).
When asked about recent police incidents in Silver Spring — including the police shooting death of Robert White, which was ruled justified, and a police stop in which a uniformed officer used the n-word — Hamill was adamant that those incidents did not represent MCP.
In a large department, “you are going to have aberrations. You are going to have unfortunate incidents,” Hamill said. “This does not represent who we are as a police department,” he said, adding, “It just means we have to work harder.”
Most of the complaints he heard in that case came from fellow officers, who “were mortified, very upset, very angry. That tells you, you have a good police department,” Hamill said.
Laurel City Council unanimously chose Hamill on May 13 to become its next police chief. He replaces former chief Rich McLaughlin, who retired at the beginning of this year.
Mayor Craig Moe said that Hamill “stood out” among the other applicants. “He has a resume that is just really unbelievable, quite frankly.”
Besides his years in law enforcement, Hamill is an attorney and a current adjunct professor at University of Maryland, College Park.
“He really has a very good outlook on what policing is all about,” Moe said. “He has just been very open and wants to educate himself” about Laurel.
During the May 13 council meeting, Aaron Waddell, president of the Laurel FOP Lodge 11, said he supported the Hamill’s hiring and believed he would move the department forward.
Several rows of the meeting room were filled with the officers Hamill soon will preside over.
Councilmember Carl DeWart praised Hamill’s “great character,” and said he hoped his hiring would result in fewer officers leaving the department.
“I hope, I really hope, you are allowed to execute the duties of the chief of police without any political interference,” DeWart said.
Hamill thanked the members of council for appointing him as their chief, noting, “This is a first class-city. Everybody I met was absolutely first class. I just hope I can live up to the standards you guys have set already.”
Hamill has been MCP acting chief since Chief Tom Manger retired in April. He took himself out of the running to replace Manger because of a decision he made about 18 months ago when he entered the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, which mandated that he retire in three years.
“So if I happened to be selected,” the department would have had to replace him in a short time, which he did not think would be right, he explained.