Sidney R. Hyatt, a retired Baltimore Police Department major, used to clown around with his daughter, Melissa R. Hyatt, that someday she would outrank him.

“That was our little joke,” he said. “But she’s just kept going and going. I’m just in disbelief and in awe with everything she’s achieved. She’s worked so hard. To think that our little daughter is now the chief is … unbelievable.”

Melissa Hyatt was sworn in as Baltimore County’s first female police chief on June 17 in Towson. A Reisterstown resident who grew up in Randallstown, she is also the Baltimore County Police Department’s first Jewish female police chief.

Hyatt, 43, was confirmed unanimously on June 3 by the seven-member Baltimore County Council.

A 20-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, she will start in the new job on June 17. She replaces Chief Terrence B. Sheridan, who held the position from 1996 to 2007 and then was reappointed to the post in 2017 by the late Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

Last month, current Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. nominated Hyatt for the position. He attended the County Council meeting on June 3.

“We are most proud of her,” said Hyatt’s mother, Elaine. “She just loves law enforcement. Since she was 3, she knew this is what she wanted to do. She’s worked very hard to get to this position.”

Hyatt, who rose to the rank of colonel with the Baltimore Police Department, worked for the past year as vice president for security at Johns Hopkins University and Medicine.

“I’m thrilled to see Melissa Hyatt, the first woman and first Jewish woman, confirmed as Baltimore County’s new police chief,” said Del. Shelly L. Hettleman (D-11th). “And it’s wonderful that more and more, the diversity of the community is reflected in top Baltimore County leadership positions.”

Baltimore County Councilman Israel C. “Izzy” Patoka (D-2nd) said he was also pleased about Hyatt’s confirmation.

“Baltimore County was very fortunate to have so many highly qualified candidates,” he said. “I was excited about Chief Hyatt because of her experience, especially that she was the chief of patrols for Baltimore City. Given that experience, I think she’ll serve Baltimore County well. So many residents of the Second District were supportive of her nomination.”

Hyatt will lead an agency of about 1,900 officers and be paid an annual salary of $275,000. Her contract runs until December of 2022.

“I understand the unwavering need to work to strengthen public trust, build relationships with the community, and have strong, open lines of communication,” Hyatt said at the council meeting.

Baltimore County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6th), who served on a nationwide search panel for the chief position, praised the choice of Hyatt.

“You’re sitting there because you deserve to be there,” Bevins told Hyatt, who received a standing ovation at the meeting. “This is a historic day in Baltimore County for sure.”

In a Facebook post, Bevins also wrote, “As the council representative for the committee that interviewed over 50 applicants to this position … I found [Hyatt] to be qualified, smart, tough, and more than able to lead the Baltimore County Chief of Police. Crime is an issue that concerns every citizen and I look forward to Chief Hyatt leading the department into the future.”

Hyatt joined the Baltimore Police Department in 1997 and received myriad commendations and citations for her work over the years. Originally a foot patrol officer in the Park Heights neighborhood, she retired as chief of the special operations division. 

Hyatt served as incident commander for Baltimore City’s Violence Reduction Initiative. She also oversaw security for such large public gatherings as Light City, the Grand Prix of Baltimore and the Baltimore marathons.

A 1994 graduate of Randallstown High School, Hyatt is a 1997 graduate of the University of Delaware, with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. In 2009, she earned a master’s degree in management from Johns Hopkins University. Eight years later, she was the recipient of the university’s Woodrow Wilson Award for Distinguished Government Service.

In November of 2017, Hyatt was recognized at the inaugural Jewish Uniformed Service Association of Maryland Law Enforcement and Military Appreciation Awards dinner honoring police, fire and military personnel.

Last June, she received a governor’s citation for her work with the Baltimore Police Department. Hyatt also received the Mayor’s Medallion for Meritorious Service in 2016.

Elaine Hyatt, who lives in Randallstown with her husband, characterized her daughter, the youngest of two children, as “always a giver. She’s been very involved with the Special Olympics since she was 12 years old. She’s also been involved with the [Baltimore] Humane Society and other organizations. That’s just the kind of person she is.”