TAKOMA PARK, Md.– The Takoma Park Police Department recently welcomed a new officer to their ranks, but he’s no rookie.
Major Antonio Williams, the new deputy police chief, comes to the department with 31 years of experience under his belt. He put in 20 years at the Baltimore City Police Department, where he retired as a colonel and chief of detectives, before moving on to policing schools and universities– most recently at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
“I’ve spent the last 12 years in higher education policing, and it’s been my dream to get back to a municipal police department,” said Williams. “When I saw that Takoma Park was advertising for a deputy chief, I jumped at the opportunity, so I’m glad I got the position.”
Catherine Plevy, the department’s public information officer, said they brought in an outside company to assist in “pulling candidates and doing precursory reviews.”
The most qualified candidates were then put in front of several panels and interviewed before getting a tour of the city and the department. Plevy said that Williams was “very highly thought of during that entire process.”
“They were very meticulous about making sure they brought the right person on board,” said Williams. “And I’m happy to be that person.”
According to Plevy, who has been with the department for nearly 12 years, the position of deputy police chief is a new addition.
“Honestly, I’m really excited,” she said. “We’ve never had a deputy chief as long as I’ve been here.”
“We now have a different kind of command structure,” she added. “Now we have a chief, a deputy chief, captain and lieutenant, so the structure rank goes a lot smoother. And I’m excited now that we have a second-in-command person that I can go to and bounce ideas off of.”
Williams, who reported for duty on Nov. 13, said that “one of the things that attracted me to this position is that Takoma Park is a sanctuary city.”
According to a 2017 press release from the town, Takoma Park was officially made a sanctuary city in 1985. The Takoma Park Sanctuary law was last revisited and reaffirmed in 2007-08.
“We don’t enforce immigration laws,” said Williams. “We don’t even ask people where they originated from. I find it not to be challenging at all. It’s a great environment.”
The Takoma Park police have a “guardian mindset” as part of their community policing philosophy, said Williams.
“So, there’s enforcement involved, but the primary function of the police department is more service and protection,” Williams said. “And I think that’s a wonderful thing.”
As he settles into his new position, Williams says he has come to appreciate many things about Takoma Park, namely the wooded drive on Sligo Creek Parkway and the “small town feel” of the city.
“I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been welcomed with open arms,” he said. “It’s been fantastic being here.”