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Official News Blog of Baltimore County police, fire, homeland security and emergency management. Call 911 to report crimes in progress and emergencies.
Date: Feb 25, 2016

Original release (February 25, 2016  8:30 a.m.):

February is Black History Month. The Baltimore County Police and Fire Departments take this opportunity to recognize African Americans who have been pioneers in these agencies.

Fire Specialist Isaac "Ike" Burke -- the Baltimore County Fire Department's third African American member -- impacted the careers of hundreds of BCoFD members.This collage, with testimonials from many who knew FS Burke, hangs at BCoFD headquarters.

Hired in 1979, FS Burke began his career at the Middle River Fire Station. His influence really began in 1982, when he was assigned to Applicant Investigations, supervising BCoFD's recruitment and hiring. By the time FS Burke retired in 2005, 85 percent of the department's sworn members had been hired under his watch.

FS Burke was a cheerful, optimistic person, well-liked by his colleagues. He handled new hires and prospective employees with tact, firmness and honesty.

FS Burke died, too young, in 2006 after a battle with cancer. His impact on the department is so great that an award has been established in his honor. The Isaac Burke Memorial Award is given to a recruit from each graduating class who exemplfies BCoFD's motto, PRIDE (Professionalism, Resourcefulness, Integrity, Dedication and Education).

Original release (February 25, 2016  8:22 a.m.):

February is Black History Month. The Baltimore County Police Department takes this opportunity to recognize African Americans who have been pioneers in this agency.

Johnny Whitehead did not think of law enforcement until he was approached one day by an African American police officer working foot patrol in his west Baltimore neighborhood. The officer told the then 19-year-old Whitehead about the Baltimore City Police Cadet Program and how it could provide a good salary and help with educational expenses. So he decided to go down to City Police Headquarters for walk-in testing. That trip started a career in law enforcement in the Baltimore area that spanned the next 21 years.

Whitehead was a cadet in Central Records and later an officer in the Baltimore City Police Department, working in the Northern District. In 1979, he decided to move to the Baltimore County Police Department after he saw then Baltimore County Police Chief Neil Behan on television encouraging African Americans to apply to his department.

Whitehead began his Baltimore County Police career in the Towson Precinct. He enjoyed being a patrol officer, but his sergeant convinced him to take the Corporal test. Whitehead said “would have been happy chasing 911 calls all of my career, but he planted that seed”. In 1983, he was promoted to Corporal and worked in the Vice Narcotics and Training Sections. He made sergeant in 1985 and worked in the North Point Precinct for a year before moving to the Legal Section in 1986 as the department’s Legislative Liaison and Fair Practices Officer. He remained in those roles after his promotion to Lieutenant in 1989.

In 1991, Whitehead became the first African American promoted to the rank of Captain and was given command of the Cockeysville Precinct, Baltimore County’s largest precinct by land area. He moved to the Employment and Basic Training Division in 1993.

In 1993, Whitehead drew from his experiences in the Legal Section and authored an article, Law Enforcement and the Legislative Process, which appeared in the July 1993 edition of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.

Whitehead had another “first” in 1994 when he was promoted to the rank of Major and assumed the command of the Towson precinct. A year later, he was the first African American promoted to Colonel, given command of the department’s Field Operations Bureau. As the commander of the Field Operations Bureau, he oversaw the day-to-day operations of the department and acted as Chief during the Chief’s absence.

While working in law enforcement, Whitehead obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Master’s Degree in Applied Behavioral Science. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Whitehead left Baltimore area law enforcement in 1997 for other opportunities, but his commitment to public service was not over. He is now the Chief of the Rice University Police Department. He is involved in organizations such as National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives – Houston Chapter, Houston Area Chiefs of Police Association, and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

Captain Robert McCullough, Commander of the department’s Personnel Section and the longest active serving African American Member of the Department, is Whitehead’s cousin. McCullough said that Whitehead is “like a brother” to him. Whitehead, he said, first encouraged him to become a police officer and later encouraged him to take promotional exams. He describes Whitehead as having an “endearing quality in his leadership style” and this has “made him very effective over the years.”

Johnny Whitehead is a pioneer in the Baltimore County Police Department and an asset to the communities that he has served.

Johnny Whitehead as a Corporal at the Training Academy

Revised June 27, 2017