Updated: Jan 14, 2021
He was appointed to the office of Anne Arundel County Police Chief rather suddenly and unexpectedly this month, during a time of heightened scrutiny of police departments and a period of national emergency. But Acting/Interim Police Chief William Lowry said he sees the circumstances of his job as an “opportunity” and the appointment an honor.
“It's not a difficult transition,” Lowry, 67, said in an interview Monday, August 11. “And the reason I say that is because, as deputy chief, I hope I listened to people. And as the now-acting chief, I listen to people. I listen to people inside of the organization, when it comes to decision making, and also listen to the community.”
The veteran officer took over from former Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare, who announced his retirement unexpectedly.
Altomare told Fox5 Baltimore Monday that he came to a point where he needed to leave.
“I was getting exhausted,” Altomare said in the report. “Hit after hit, after hit. I worked very hard to buoy my agency with Ferguson and Baltimore...I was working hard to get us through this one. But at the end of the day, what I hit was a wall that said ‘Tim it’s time to start using your voice.’ You can’t do that when you are an appointed official who serves at the pleasure of an elected person.”
Altomare’s replacement acknowledged that cases of bad policing can create a shadow that tarnishes the badge. He emphasized though that he believed the Anne Arundel County Police Department has a very good relationship with residents overall, and that its members love the communities they are a part of.
Currently a lawsuit has been filed against the county and police on behalf of a black resident of Odenton, Daniel Jarrells, which states county police leaned on his neck while restraining him in February of 2019.
On the first day of August, in a different incident, charges were filed against an Anne Arundel County police officer for allegedly stealing firearms after responding to a call in Pasadena.
Lowry hopes the public sees incidents of bad policing locally in the context of what he believes is an excellent county police department of over 750 officers.
“I understand the community could look at that (incidents of police misconduct) and think that that's indicative of all our officers when in fact, it's a small, small, small issue of police officers that are involved in those type of activities,” Lowry said. “When an action by an officer is initiated in an incident...that shadow is over the top of us.”
The department removes that shadow, he believes, through a continual day-to-day excellent work product.
He cited his department’s accreditation by the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. That recognition has been achieved by only five percent of 18,000 police departments in the nation, he said.
“We're going through that process again, coming up very soon,” he said. “To me, those are very important things. I would put this police department against any police department as far as our quality of service, our training, our ability to be a public service agency--on any of them.”
Lowry also said he’s a big proponent of transparency in the police department. He believes the public wants fair, equitable treatment, as well as a responsive police department which listens to the public’s expectations. They want the police to be a part of their community, he said.
In his eyes, those expectations haven’t changed much since he got his start in law enforcement in 1973.
“Even in the early 70s, that was an expectation,” the chief said.
He recognizes some things have changed, though. The vetting process to become a cop is much more scrupulous now, and the public is holding cops under scrutiny, which he said he thinks is a good thing.
The department is charged with a public trust, and it should be held accountable, Lowry said. Personally, Lowry said, he sees police work as a calling, not just a job.
“Policing is not for everyone,” he said.
Lowry didn’t disagree that law enforcement nationally has had issues with applying law enforcement equitably for a long time.
"There's a national discussion that's taking place right now, regarding law enforcement, and then there should be a local discussion when it comes to the Anne Arundel County Police Department,” he said.
He is communicating regularly with County Executive Steuart Pittman about the creation of a civilian review board and what that might look like for the county
"Public expectations and public initiatives sometimes drive agencies, and that can be a good thing if it's well thought out,” Lowry said. “So I don't look at these issues as challenges. I really think they're an opportunity for folks to see how good a police department we are, and how we can get better almost every day. I look forward to that. I think I speak for the overwhelming majority of our police department. I really do. I'm not saying that flippantly.”
The acting chief thinks the idea of “defunding” of police services is a non-issue for his department. The department enjoys full support of the county government in that regard, he believes.
“Once you look at the minutiae of it, probably, it doesn't apply to our police department,” he said. “Our county executive, I think, has made it very clear. He's an advocate for our police department. He's an advocate for essential funding for us. So I don't think That applies to our agency as far as the funding initiative.”
Lowry’s own career has been local and diverse.
He said he has worked in law enforcement since he became a cop in 1973. He started for the Prince George’s County Police Department and stayed for 27 years. He was also the chief for two small local departments in that county.
Additionally, for over seven years he ran security for two NFL teams (the former Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins), and worked as a special agent for NASA. Former Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis persuaded him to come work for the county when he ran the department .
Escape From Baton Rouge
Lowry currently lives in Prince George’s County with his wife of 47 years. They have three sons, three daughters-in-law whom he call his “daughters”. He also has five grandchildren.
He said he is a Southern boy by roots, whose Dad was a labor organizer for the AFL-CIO. The elder Lowry job was to recruit African Americans to the union during the 1950s and 60s, the chief recalled.
While living in Baton Rouge one night the young William Lowry and his brother were rousted by their parents and the family fled together from their home. The local Klu Klux Klan had made a threat towards them, and it was suddenly time to go. They drove all the way to Virginia for refuge, the chief recalled.
He gives his parents for credit for what he considers the ethical pillars of his career.
“Honesty, integrity, accountability, a hard-work ethic—I learned that from my dad and my mom,” he said. “My mom was a homemaker the majority of her career, which, I think, is the hardest job one can have.”
Today the head of the county’s police department indicated he tends to keep his priorities pretty simple—God, family and career. He didn’t reveal any hobbies outside of work when asked, other than a love for music and an enjoyment for watching sports, like football and NASCAR.
“I tell people I'm a very easy read,” he said, “I really am. If I'm not at work, and if I'm not in church, I'm with my family.”