New police chief marks many firsts for Hyattsville

Before a packed room of law enforcement officers and well-wishers at Hyattsville’s city hall, Amal Awad was officially sworn in to her new role as chief of police for the Hyattsville City Police Department. The ceremony took place shortly after 2 p.m. Dec. 13, 2018. In assuming her new title, Awad becomes the first African-American, the first woman, and the first member of the LGBT community to lead Hyattsville’s police. 

In swearing in Awad, Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said the department has a leader committed to maintaining and building trust between the community and the police department. “Amal has dedicated and demonstrated to this community that she will lead the department at the highest level, that our community will have – through her leadership and the work of the police and law enforcement officers that are in this room and from our department and our partners – that our community will have a police department that delivers on the type of community policing that residents value and deserve,” said Hollingsworth during the event.

Hyattsville’s new chief a familiar face

Hyattsville city officials did not go far to pick its next chief of police, tapping interim chief Amal Awad to lead the city’s police department.  

Awad becomes both the first woman and the first African-American to head up the Hyattsville City Police Department in the city’s 132-year history. 

“I look forward to continuing to work with the dedicated men and women of the city of Hyattsville police department to enhance relationships, reduce crime and create opportunities so that all of our residents and community members feel safe, welcome and valued,” said Awad in a statement announcing her hire. 

Awad is a native Washingtonian who holds a master of science in management from Johns Hopkins University. Her career in law enforcement goes back 27 years, when she started her career as a Prince George’s County Police Department officer at its Hyattsville station. At PGPD, she eventually rose to commander of the force’s Bowie station before retiring with the rank of major. She has worked for Hyattsville since 2017, when she came out of retirement to serve as the captain for the force, ranking second to recently-retired Hyattsville police chief Doug Holland.

A two-story greyish brick building stands on a corner lot in an older suburban streetscape. It adjoins a red single-story building that houses a retail storefront with a sign reading Hyattsville Vacuum Service. The sidewalk is cracked narrow, receding left to right into the distance. It is and stained from years of brick erosion. Infront of the buildings, at the corner crosswalk, is a crosswalk sign.

Developer buys prime Hyattsville properties, but plans uncertain

A developer has assembled a contiguous block of properties in downtown Hyattsville with the intention to redevelop it. The properties are just south of the EYA Arts District development and across the street from the proposed Hyattsville Armory development. But according to a senior Hyattsville economic development official, plans for the property have yet to be fleshed out. Further complicating matters are the city’s own long-term – but still fuzzy – plans for the area, such as a potential need for a new municipal building or parking garage. According to state property records, a series of holding companies registered to College Park resident Phillip Attia now owns the buildings fronting the eastern side of Baltimore Avenue’s 5200 and 5300 blocks.

Council rundown: Hyattsville Council gets mass shooter training, weighs vote-by-mail proposal

Consider it a sign of the times: Hyattsville City Council went through security training at its Monday meeting. Part of the training, administered by Hyattsville City Police Department officers, dealt with the potential for a gunperson to open fire during a City Council meeting. According to multiple Council members, it is the first time city elected officials have participated in such a training scenario. Specific details of the security training were not open to the public. Instead, Hyattsville City Council unanimously voted to enter closed session to receive the security training near the start of its regularly-scheduled Nov.

Art notes: Sculptors sought; Street art hits Hyattsville signal boxes

Local officials will pay for five sculptures to grace Riverdale Park neighborhoods. It’s part of the Riverdale Park Public Art Initiative, a collaboration between the town of Riverdale Park and the Hyattsville Community Development Corp. The initiative has been active since 2015. This year, they’re seeking five sculptures of various styles and sizes to display at publicly-accessible sites within Riverdale Park. Organizers want “site-appropriate sculptural work fitting of each chosen location.”

Hyattsville approves $13.8M bond for police, public works facilities

Hyattsville City Council unanimously approved a bond measure authorizing the city to borrow $13.8 million to renovate a public works facility and transform an old bank into its new police headquarters. $10.3 million is earmarked for the police station build-out at 3505 Hamilton Street, which was most-recently a branch of BB&T Bank. $3.3 million is directed towards the public works facility. The projects have been on the city’s long-term capital improvement plans since 2016. Hyattsville currently pays $1.8 million per year to pay off its existing debts, a financial line item called “debt service.”

Hyattsville Council balks at campaign finance exemptions

Exemptions to campaign finance reporting rules are on the chopping block in Hyattsville as several City Council members, notably Mayor Candace Hollingsworth and Ward 3 Councilor Carianna Suiter argued for the preservation of the existing reporting schedule. “I do feel like those are important tools for transparency for both the voter and the candidate,” said Suiter, the first to question the proposed reporting rule changes. Debate came during its Nov. 5, 2018, meeting, where Hyattsville City Council considered for a second time a suite of amendments to the city’s elections code. Most of the tweaks work around the edges of the code to clarify terms and vague language.

After nearly 20 years, Perry to resign from Hyattsville Council

Hyattsville City Councilor Paula Perry will resign effective Dec. 8, 2018, ending an at-times divisive career in city politics that dates to 1999. “I honestly have felt privileged to have their support; The trust in me that I would do for them what needed to be done; That I would speak for them,” said Perry, reflecting on her constituents in Hyattsville. “I appreciate it. I’m going to miss a lot of this.