After nearly a year without a permanent police chief, the city of Frederick has hired a new top cop who appears to be a well-regarded, highly competent law enforcement veteran.
Jason Lando, 43, was nominated by Mayor Michael O’Connor and confirmed by the Board of Aldermen. He will begin work March 8.
Lando has spent a little more than 20 years on the Pittsburgh police force, rising to the rank of commander in the investigations branch managing the narcotics and vice division.
The new chief has been widely regarded as a top candidate for police posts nationally, as evidenced by the fact that in the last six months he has been a finalist for chief in several large cities, including Milwaukee, Miami, Oakland, Calif., and Arlington, Texas. Frederick, with a much smaller police force protecting a much smaller city, seems to be fortunate to have attracted him.
Lando is coming to town at a relatively calm period, with the city experiencing historically low crime rates. The department recently reported that serious crimes in 2020 were down more than 20 percent since 2016.
Crimes such as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, stolen vehicles and arson totaled 1,388 last year, down from 1,674 the previous year. Serious crime has actually been declining in the city on a consistent basis since 2012, when we had 2,280 such crimes.
Part of the 2020 drop was attributed to the fact fewer people were out and about in the early part of the year because of the pandemic. But it also reflects good work on the part of the police, even with the department in transition for the whole year.
Former Chief Ed Hargis retired last February after more than four years running the force. He was replaced by acting Chief Patrick Grossman, but he also decided to retire, in October. He was replaced by another acting chief, Dwight Sommers. It will be good to have a permanent chief in place.
During his time in Pittsburgh, Lando has shown himself to be aware of the demands of a modern law enforcement leader, focusing on building connections to his community and on training for his officers.
He even showed himself to be a bit of an entrepreneur. After creating a program to train police officers in recognizing implicit bias and de-escalating conflicts, he and other police officers formed a private business called DBA Training Solutions. According to its website, the company provides “workshops on dealing with implicit bias to corporations, medical professionals, schools and community groups.”
That is the sort of background that we want and need in a new chief here, dealing with changing expectations of the police in a diverse and growing city. In announcing his nomination, Mayor O’Connor praised Lando for his work improving police and community relationships.
“I think what really stood out [about Lando] is that sense of collaboration and a level of what I’ll call warmth and empathy and humility,” O’Connor told News-Post reporter Mary Grace Keller.
O’Connor called Lando a “catalyst” behind community programs in Pittsburgh, including a program that connected youth with officers. This and other initiatives led to increased community cooperation but decreased crime and complaints, O’Connor said.
While crime is on the decline here, the new chief does have work to do. In addition to forging ties with the minority communities, he’ll have to address a recent rise in violent crimes. Just in recent days, we have seen stabbings on the Golden Mile and a drive-by shooting on the north side of the city.
With warm weather coming and the pandemic restrictions easing, the police are likely to have their hands full.
We are hopeful that Chief Lando is the right person to deal with these challenges, and we wish him good luck and great success here in Frederick.