Capt. Thomas Ledwell has been named acting chief of the Frederick Police Department, filling the role that will soon be vacated by longtime Chief Kim Dine.
Ledwell, 44, who was appointed to the rank of captain in July, has spent about 20 years as an officer with the city, the last 13 of which as a member of the command staff, he said.
Ledwell will take on the duties of the chief when Dine’s tenure ends on Dec. 5.
Dine, who has headed the Frederick department since 2002, announced on Nov. 14 that he was leaving the department to become chief of the U.S. Capitol Police.
Ledwell said he is excited to step into the temporary position. He praised Dine’s ability to work with the community, something he hopes to continue.
He also said he would work to reduce crime in the city.
“I feel confident going into my role as acting chief,” Ledwell said. “We continue to work on systematic crime-reducing strategies that I’ve had a hand in working on that I’m excited to continue working on as acting chief. It’s a combination of data-driven problem-solving and community policing. I’m excited about keeping us headed in the right directions as an agency.”
Major crime, including assault and murder, is the lowest it has been in the city since 1991, despite a burgeoning population, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Since 2002, Frederick’s population has grown not only in numbers but diversity. The city’s Hispanic population surged 287 percent, while the number of residents overall jumped from 52,000 to 62,000.
The city saw its first homicide of the year on Sept. 30, when Lamont George-Lee Ellis, 36, of Urbana was found with multiple gunshot wounds in Mullinix Alley in downtown Frederick.
The day after the homicide, police were called to respond to a shooting and stabbing related to a fight on nearby South Street.
The homicide, which remains unsolved, and the subsequent shooting prompted a surge in police presence in the area.
Ledwell said he was still considering whether he’d be interested in permanently replacing Dine.
But, for the time being, Ledwell said he will focus on running the department according to the same standards of his predecessor.
“My goal in that time period is to continue the positive interaction and working with the community that we’ve established under Chief Dine and through the [Neighborhood Advisory Council] system,” he said. “We look at addressing crime issues in the most efficient and effective manner.”
Mayor Randy McClement (R) said Ledwell’s years of experience with the department, especially on the command staff, made him a good choice to replace Dine as acting chief.
“I find Tom to be a strong advocate of the police department,” McClement said. “... He has some really big shoes to fill with the chief.”
McClement said he was still in the process of working with the city’s human resources and police departments to come up with parameters for the open search for a permanent replacement for Dine. He did not know how long the search might take, but said the departments were coordinating efforts to search for a replacement.
“We found some documents from when the chief was hired,” McClement said. “A lot of things have changed in 10 years, but it’s a start. I’ve got HR working on that.”
He said his current focus is on Ledwell and ensuring a seamless transition when Dine leaves.
“I needed to get somebody into ‘acting’ so I could have that continuity,” McClement said.
Ledwell said he likes working in Frederick because the city police department conducts a variety of investigations but still retains the feel of a small-town police force.
“We also still have that intimate town feel that you know people around the city and around town,” Ledwell said. “It’s a good combination, size-wise. We’re not so large that it’s impersonal but we’re also large enough that we get to do a variety of police work.”
When Dine came on board on July 15, 2002, he replaced acting Chief Harold Domer, a captain in the department and one of the final three candidates for the job of chief. Domer now serves as head of Frederick County Animal Control.
Domer had replaced Chief Ray Raffensberger, who left under a cloud of controversy. Allegations of a coverup involving the infamous “black book” — the case of a local prostitution ring — to protect politicians and other prominent people resulted in allegations of police retaliation against the woman who led the charge, Charlene Edmonds. Edmonds was head of the NAACP at the time.
At the time, Mayor Jennifer Dougherty conducted surveys and staged public meetings to find out what characteristics residents wanted in a police chief. Interview panels that included then-Alderman Joe Baldi (R) vetted 63 candidates and recommended three, including Domer and Dine.
Baldi, who had served in the previous administration, said he was tainted by the controversy surrounding the police and former Mayor Jim Grimes (R).