The Department of Corrections originated as the Division of Corrections which was established in 1975. It reformed as a department several years later.

The County Detention Center and the Central Booking Facility are overseen by the Department, which is responsible for meeting the needs of those incarcerated (County Code, secs. 7.500-7.503).

[photo, Old Howard County Emory Street Jail, 3709 Park Ave., Ellicott City, Maryland] DETENTION CENTER
The first jail in Howard County opened in 1878 on Emory Street in Ellicott City. Operated by the Sheriff's Office, it was built to accommodate twelve inmates. Oversight of the Jail transferred to the Division of Corrections in 1975. With overcrowding at the Jail, the County opened the Detention Center in 1983. At that time, the County Jail ceased operation.

Old Howard County Emory Street Jail, 3709 Park Ave. (formerly 1 Emory St.), Ellicott City, Maryland, October 2016. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.

Housing convicted inmates, sentenced up to 18 months, and persons awaiting trial, the Center also provides classes on preparation for General Educational Development (GED) tests, and employment and other skills needed to help inmates reenter society. Located in Jessup, the Detention Center can hold up to 474 inmates.

Booking arrested persons formerly had been the responsiblity of the County Police Department. That function transferred to the Department of Corrections in March 2005, when an additional building opened at the Detention Center to house the Central Booking Facility.

The Central Booking Facility processes all persons arrested in the County, including juveniles waived to adult jurisdiction, by the County Police Department, the Natural Resources Police Force, the Maryland State Police, and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. Those arrested are searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and processed before being seen by a District Court Commissioner for an initial hearing.


Responding to emergencies in the County, the Department of Fire and Rescue Services is responsible for fire prevention, suppression, and investigation, as well as rescue and emergency medical response. Aiding other counties as needed, the Department maintains a fleet of fire and rescue responders, and oversees and coordinates volunteer and commercial units operating in the County. (County Code, secs. 17.100-17.111).

The Department oversees two offices: Emergency Management, and Fire Marshal.

Under the Department of Fire and Rescue Services, the Office of Emergency Management directs emergency preparation, response, mitigation, and recovery; and develops and maintains the County's emergency plans. The Office maintains the County's Emergency Operations Center from which it coordinates federal, State and local responders during emergencies. The Office, following emergencies, also coordinates federal and State disaster relief efforts, and receives and disburses aid funds. To ensure quick and efficient response during emergencies, the Office conducts emergency exercises and drills of responders operating in the County (Code Public Safety Article, secs. 14-109 through 14-113).

Appointed by the Governor on recommendation of the County Executive, the Director oversees the Department (Code Public Safety Article, sec. 14-109).

The Office of Fire Marshal inspects commercial, public and private properties to ensure adherence to State and County fire codes. The Office also investigates scenes of fire to determine cause. In cases of criminal cause, the Office assists law enforcement officers, and aids prosecution. In addition, the Office conducts public education programs for schools, assisted living facilities, and community groups.


[photo, County Police Headquarters, Warfield Building, 3410 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, Maryland] Law enforcement duties in Howard County were the sole responsibility of the Sheriff's Office until 1894, when the County Commissioners were authorized to appoint local police officers in designated jurisdictions to aid law enforcement efforts. Replacing local forces in 1952, the Police Department was created to be the primary law enforcement agency for the County (Chapter 496, Acts of 1894; County Code, secs. 17.200-17.206).

County Police Headquarters, Warfield Building, 3410 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, Maryland, May 2018. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

Community outreach, internal affairs, and public relations programs are conducted for the Department through the Office of the Chief. Other services provided by the Office are the Honor Guard, which presents the colors at Departmental events and police funerals, and the Police Foundation, which manages the Department's scholarship fund, and organizes special events.

For adult residents, the Department offers a Citizens Police Academy, an annual program lasting eleven sessions. Through the Academy, residents learn the day-to-day operations of the Department. Sessions include classes, ride-alongs, and simulated exercises on traffic and criminal law enforcement, community policing, conducting investigations, and defensive tactics and use of force. In addition, athletic programs, leadership camps, nature programs, and a Youth Police Academy are offered to community youth by the Department through Operations.

Under the Department are three main units: Administration, the Investigations and Special Operations Command, and the Operations Command.

[photo, County Police Headquarters, Warfield Building, 3410 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, Maryland]

County Police Headquarters, Warfield Building, 3410 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, Maryland, May 2018. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

Administration provides budget, human resource, information technology, and procurement services for the Police Department. Duties include creation of operating budgets; employee screening, hiring and training; fleet management; forensic and computer forensic analysis; and trauma counseling for officers and staff.

Administration functions through three bureaus: Human Resources, Information and Technology, and Management Services.

Conducting patrols and investigations, the Operations Command provides traffic patrols, and regular police presence and response in the community. In addition to routine patrol units, Operations maintains horse and bike patrols, as well as specialized response units, such as aviation, k-9, and negotiations and tactical squads. School crossing guards and youth programs also are provided through Operations.

The Operations Command consists of the Special Operations Support Bureau, the Northern District Patrol, and the Southern District Patrol.

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