After 26 years on the force and nearly 11 years as a captain, Baltimore County police Capt. Gordon Skinner has found his way to the top office at Precinct 8 on Old Harford Road.
It might be his first time in the upstairs office, but Skinner is no stranger to the Parkville-Overlea area. He grew up in nearby White Marsh and graduated from Overlea High School.
After he joined the force, Skinner was assigned to the Parkville precinct twice, as a patrol officer from 1986-1987 and again in the early 1990s.
"This is just a neat place to work," Skinner said. "[There's] a lot of positive interaction between the people and the police; you looked forward to coming to work here when I was a patrol officer.”
Since making captain at age 36, Skinner's served as a precinct commander in Essex, as traffic management commander for the department, and most recently as the head of the Office of Safe Schools.
"That was like having a whole precinct full of kids," he said.
The Office of Safe Schools manages 63 police officers assigned to every high school and all but six middle schools in Baltimore County.
"A lot of the stuff that I've done for the past couple of years has had a countywide impact," he said. "This job will obviously be focused just on the precinct—it's a specific area, a specific group of people, and it will be nice to be able to focus on more specific issues."
Skinner isn't one to tell stories about his career as a cop—he's perfectly happy not going for the glory.
"One thing that I’ve always been very comfortable with is being in the background. I don’t need to be the one being seen as long as the work is getting done. I’m a big teamwork kind of person. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as it’s getting done properly," he said.
Like his predecessor, former Parkville precinct commander Thomas Busch, Skinner places a heavy emphasis on communication.
"It’s too easy to overlook the support that people give the police department. We don’t just get to do good things; we have to do things that people consider controversial, you absolutely have to have the support of the public," Skinner said.
"I tell my officers 'take an extra five minutes to explain to people why you did something or why you can’t do something' ... it’s unacceptable to say 'it’s not my job.' "
The new captain has always been drawn to police work. His father served as a precinct commander in White Marsh and in Cockeysville and his maternal grandfather was a sergeant with the Baltimore City Police Department.
"It’s kind of like a family business sort of thing, that’s how we do an awful lot of our recruiting is by word of mouth," he said.
Skinner lives in Pennsylvania with his wife of 17 years who worked as a dispatcher for Baltimore County. That's where they met. He has three children between the ages of 9 and 15.
He's not sure if any of his children plan to follow in his footsteps like he followed in his father's, but he isn't worried about it.
"I think this is the kind of job that you don’t encourage somebody to take," Skinner said. "If somebody considers it a calling, they have to make that decision. You don’t make it for them."