ROCKVILLE – The Rockville City Mayor swore in the city police department’s new deputy chief of police during a city council meeting at City Hall on July 15.
“It is my great honor and privilege to swear in Deputy Chief Laura Lanham,” said City Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton.
Just under a year following the swearing in of Chief Victor Brito, he announced he had selected Lanham for the deputy chief position. Adding the deputy chief position is one of Brito’s recent changes in leadership organization, spokesperson Marylou Berg said.
“Chief Brito created the position and (Lanham will) be doing the day-to-day operations,” said Berg.
Around the time of the hire, Brito said he was “excited” for Lanham to join Rockville City Police (RCPD). “Bringing Laura aboard makes us a better police department; it makes us a better city,” said Brito. “It’s really just that fundamental.You strive to build an A-team, and we have an A-team here.”
The evening marked a couple of firsts for the city.
“This is a first for the city to have a deputy chief, and a first to have a female in this position, so I just want to say welcome; we are thrilled to have you aboard,” Newton said to Lanham.
Lanham worked for the Montgomery County Police Department (MCP) for 28 years prior to accepting her new job with the Rockville City Police Department. Most recently, she served as an assistant chief and oversaw the Patrol Services Bureau.
“I am humbled by my selection as the deputy chief of the Rockville City Police Department,” Lanham said. “RCPD has an excellent reputation earned through many years of dedicated and professional service in the city.”
As an executive officer with MCP, Lanham was a director of the criminal investigations division the legal and labor division, and the policy and planning division according to a Rockville City news release. Her experience also includes serving as captain of the 4th District (Wheaton) and as chief of the investigative services bureau.
Brito said he created the position because he has experience following a model with a deputy chief, and because he has observed its effectiveness.
He said he had no one in mind when he created the position of deputy police chief, with the blessing of City Manager Rob DiSpirito. The department conducted a nationwide search upon creating the position, and Brito received more than 67 applications.
“The pool of candidates were incredibly qualified. You know, Laura Lanham rose quickly to the top (of the pool), and it was evident to me,” Brito said.
Brito said he was pleased that the new deputy chief chose to work for Rockville Police, given the number of places she could have decided to work based on her experience.
“As her last position was assistant chief of patrol, assistant chief of patrol, which was the largest segment of Montgomery County, Laura’s acumen in management and in command is quite vast,” Brito said.
Lanham attained a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice and sociology from the University of Maryland and graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy session 263.
Lanham is the highest-ranking woman to serve on the police force in the history of the department.
“The next-highest ranking filled by a female is lieutenant,” Berg said. Brito promoted Jan Seilhamer to lieutenant on March 25.
Brito confirmed it was a coincidence that he recently promoted a woman to lieutenant months before hiring Lanham, further raising the highest rank held by a woman. He said he promoted Seilhamer because there was a vacant lieutenant position, and she was qualified to fill it.
On the coincidence of recent promotions of two female officers, “We always strive for inclusion and diversity,” Brito said.
“I look forward to working alongside members of the department and city government in their continued efforts to serve the Rockville community to the best of our ability,” Lanham said.
About a year ago, Brito was sworn in ending a two-year hiatus in the city having a permanent chief. Bob Rappoport, then a 28-year veteran of the city police force, served as acting chief while the city government conducted a search for its new chief.