© 2014 Howard County Police Foundation.

Former HCPD Chiefs, 1991-Present

by Pfc. Allen Hafner (Retired)


Chief of Police, 1991 - 1998

James N. Robey, Jr. became a Howard County officer in 1966 and came up through the ranks, becoming the Department's first Major in 1981. He was sworn in as Chief on March 20, 1991.


During the first year of Chief Robey's command, a new outdoor departmental firearms range was opened, the civilian-staffed Victim's Assistance Unit was formed, and the first African-American Captain was promoted.

A new Computer-Aided Dispatch system went into Operation in October of 1991. In 1992, ground was broken on Route 216 for the new Southern District Station, a combined police and fire facility. The first Police Neighborhood Satellite Office (PNSO) was opened in the Stevens Forest Apartment complex in 1993. A number of similar offices would be opened in the coming years.  


In 1994, the Patrol Division began to operate as two district commands. The first units moved into the new Southern District Station in April. In 1995, Nancy Yeager was promoted to Lieutenant, becoming the first female Lieutenant in the history of the force.


By 1996, the calls for police service exceeded 100,000. The Department continued to develop in order to meet the needs of Howard County residents.


Chief Robey retired in 1998 to run for County Executive. He was elected County Executive in 1998 and 2002, then went on to campaign for a seat in the Maryland State Senate in 2006. Robey won the election with 56% of the vote. On September 1, 2013, Senator Robey was chosen as State Senate Majority Leader.


Chief of Police, 1998 - 2006

G. Wayne Livesay became a Howard County officer in 1972.  He was appointed Acting Chief in January 1998, when Chief Robey announced his retirement. Livesay was sworn in as Chief on December 21, 1998.  


In 1998, a Central Booking Unit was established in the Southern District station. All adult arrests were taken to this facility for processing. 

In the following years, HCPD's Aviation unit was established, Mobile Data Computers (MDCs) were installed in patrol cars, and HCPD joined a multi-jurisdictional task force for the apprehension of fugitives.


In 2000, a departmental website went online, and was used to disseminate public information and to recruit new officers. On January 15, 2002, Nancy Yeager became the first female officer promoted to Captain. The color of the police cars was also changed under Chief Livesay's command; a vote by departmental employees determined the new cars would be black in color. In April 2003, the newly designed patrol cars began to be integrated.


During the 2006 on-site assessment for reaccreditation, HCPD exceeded CALEA requirements and became a certified flagship agency. 


Chief of Police, 2006 - 2014

William J. McMahon became a Howard County officer in 1986.  He was appointed Acting Chief on June 1, 2006, after Chief Livesay announced his retirement. McMahon was appointed Chief by the new County Executive on December 5, 2006, and was sworn in on January 29, 2007. 


An expanded Animal Control building was dedicated on October 23, 2006.  In March of 2007, the County Council passed legislation that allows police officers to carry Tasers, or "stun guns." Training began immediately, with 25 new weapons placed in operation on July 16 of that same year.

2007 was also the year that HCPD purchased its own helicopter and mobile command post.  This was a year of numerous promotions, including the promotion of Kevin Burnett, who became the first African American HCPD officer to attain the rank of Major. The main building on the campus of the Public Safety Training Center was dedicated on October 29, 2007. The memorial plaza at Headquarters was rebuilt in 2008 and dedicated in May.


Chief McMahon became a national figure in January of 2014, following the murder of two young people and the suicide of the killer at the Columbia Mall. While supervising scores of police officers on the scene of the killings, he became Howard County's voice to the nation, delivering continual updates to the press as events unfolded.


The Baltimore Sun, among others, lauded the Police Chief for his handling of the situation. The newspaper said in an editorial: "During those trying few days, it was McMahon who was in the midst of it all, keeping us informed of what his officers learned, and more importantly, providing the kind of leadership that gave the community at-large the kind of confidence that everything that could be done to make some sense of this tragedy was being done. It was McMahon at his best, and to those around the country, showed Howard County at its best during the worst of times."


During McMahon's term as Police Chief, crime in the county dropped by 9 percent, auto thefts were reduced by half, robberies cut by about one-third, and burglaries declined by roughly 10 percent. The Department also made special efforts to crack down on repeat offenders and on domestic violence (Howard County Beacon, June 2014).


Chief of Police, 2014 - Present

Chief Gary L. Gardner is a 30-year veteran of the Howard County Police Department. Prior to his appointment as Chief of Police, he held  the position of Deputy Chief for Operations, overseeing the patrol districts, the operational preparedness division, and the youth services division.


Throughout his career, Chief Gardner has served in nearly every component of the Department; his past assignments include service as the Deputy Chief for Administration, Commander of the criminal investigations bureau, Chief of Staff, Commander in the patrol division, and Public Information Officer.

Chief Gardner's contributions and accomplishments include the realignment of patrol beats for improved response services; implementation of a crime analysis-driven system for better allocating resources in patrol operations; development of the Alpha Ridge Training Center as the head of the police planning team; and the creation of the department’s Police Memorial Courtyard and Garden at the Northern District headquarters. 


Chief Gardner has a Master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is a member of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, the International Chiefs of Police Association and the FBI National Academy Associates. He is also an active supporter of Maryland Special Olympics and other law enforcement-related charities. In addition to the aforementioned accomplishments and activities, Chief Gardner is a 2006 graduate of Leadership Howard County.



8267 Main Street
Ellicott City, MD 21043



(410) 313-1447


April thru September

Saturday 11 AM - 6 PM

Sunday 11 AM - 4 PM


October thru March

 Saturday & Sunday

11 AM - 4 PM

*Group tours and special visits can be arranged upon request.


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