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Police Department Gains New Chief, Deputy Chief

By Carla Garnett and Rich McManus

On the Front Page...

There are two good reasons for the big smile seen lately on the face of Jim Sweat, director of the Division of Public Safety at NIH. That's because he has managed to lure out of retirement two highly regarded law enforcement officers to head the Police Branch. New Chief Al Hinton hails from the U.S. Park Police and his deputy, Robert Fuller, is a longtime veteran of the Prince George's County police department.


"We're fortunate to have been able to recruit two highly experienced and already successful, proven police executives to lead the NIH Police in the years ahead," Sweat said. "Both men enjoyed superb reputations in their former agencies and I look forward to their continued excellent work within the NIH."

For the past 31 years, it has been fairly easy to find NIH's new police chief, Hinton: If he wasn't in Washington, D.C., where he was born, reared and graduated from Dunbar High School, then he'd be in New York City, his home away from his hometown and the place the Park Police sent him whenever they wanted to promote him, roughly every 3 or 4 years since he joined.

Following high school graduation and stints with the Air Force and the Post Office, he was 6 years into his career as a motorcycle officer — serving on escort detail for presidents and other heads of state, and helping solve outlaw motorcycle gang crime in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado — when his first promotion to sergeant took him to the New York field office in Brooklyn in 1975.

New Police Chief Al Hinton

"We worked all the boroughs, but I was stationed in Brooklyn," he recalled.

In 1977, Hinton was promoted to lieutenant and headed back to D.C. as a shift commander for the major criminal investigations branch. By 1980, now a newly promoted captain, he was reassigned to the New York field office as assistant commander. Not too long after that appointment, he was detailed to Fort Chafee, Ark., to a law enforcement contingent involved in the Cuban Refugee Relocation Program. He returned to Washington in 1983 as a regional law enforcement specialist, rising in the ranks to West district commander in 1985. In that role, he oversaw law enforcement programs in northern D.C., Montgomery, Fairfax and Arlington counties, as well as Alexandria City.

"I provided advice on all law enforcement concerns and I also coordinated training for the rangers," he said, smiling. "When I tell people I was with the Park Police, they always want to know if I rode a horse. I didn't. I kept saying I was going to take horseback riding lessons one day, because a lot of the officers I supervised rode the horses, but I never got around to it."

A graduate of American University with a B.S. degree in administration of justice, Hinton was promoted to major in 1988 and headed back to New York for what would be his last stint in the Big Apple until he officially retired in January. Did all the moving ever get to him and his family?

"Well there were trade-offs," he explained. "My wife had a good job in Washington, so I couldn't uproot her. We both liked New York and we kept a home in both cities. I never minded the commute too much."

In 1990, he came home for good and was promoted to deputy chief in 1994. In 1997, he was appointed to command all operations in D.C. — just in time for such police planning challenges as the Million Man March, the Promisekeepers convention, the 50th anniversary of NATO and a few Independence Day celebrations.

"We got the planning down to a science," he said, "but those events bring in an awful lot of people. Months of work and planning go into a 1-day demonstration."

A saltwater fisherman, casual gardener and self-described "weekend sportster — I tend to get out and play whatever sport is in season at the time," Hinton said he was just too active to retire permanently. He heard about the NIH job "through law enforcement circles," applied and had it lined up, before he officially retired last Jan. 29. He began at NIH on the following day.

Thirty-one years with the Park Police, an A.U. degree and graduate studies at the University of Virginia and George Washington University, additional study at the FBI National Academy, and firsthand experience policing some of the largest public displays in the nation seemingly account for more than one man's career in law enforcement. What's left for Hinton at NIH?

"I hope my years of experience will help to raise NIH's police department to a higher level," he said. "Besides, I figured retirement would be fine, as long as I was still doing something I enjoy, and I enjoy police work."

Robert Fuller, the new deputy chief, arrived in mid-January following more than 24 years with the Prince George's County police department, where he rose from private in 1974 to major in 1990, a rank he held until retiring in 1998. Interestingly, both he and Hinton began their law enforcement careers in the same year — 1969 — and in the same area — motorcycle patrol.

"Welcome to my executive suite," he said with a laugh one recent morning, gesturing at almost a dozen neat piles of paperwork in a windowless office in the basement of Bldg. 31. Fuller found out about the opening here on the Internet, and from a colleague from his P.G. County days. "I knew when I retired that I would be looking for a second career," said the Calvert County resident.

Deputy Chief Robert Fuller

This is not his introduction to NIH, however, he notes: "I had a Coca Cola truck route here when I was 19. I stocked all of the Coke machines on campus." Despite much construction over the years, he says, "I still recognize portions of the place."

Fuller was born in Baltimore City, and later moved to the Washington area. He attended Springbrook High School, and graduated in 1968 from Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, Va.

His first 5 years of police work were with the Takoma Park police department. Officers there took training at the Montgomery County police academy, where he first met Jim Sweat — a legendary instructor — in 1970. "I definitely remembered him, and followed his career to his arrival at NIH," Fuller recalls.

Fuller then joined the P.G. County force, one of the 50 largest in the nation, with over 1,700 employees and a budget (which he helped prepare in FY 1995 and 1996) of more than $90 million. Early in his career he served in the motorcycle section for 8 years as one of the unit's supervisors. At the executive level, Fuller has served as the district commander for the county's Hyattsville, Clinton and Beltsville stations, and also commanded the narcotic enforcement division, investigative services, inspectional services (internal affairs) and was acting chief of the bureau of support services.

He completed college while a police officer, earning a bachelor of science in business administration, summa cum laude, from Columbia Union College in 1996, where he was on the dean's list. He was also a dean's list student at Prince George's Community College, where he got his associate's degree in 1995. He has also trained at the FBI's National Academy and at the University of Maryland's Center for Management Excellence.

Fuller's goal is to implement the "community policing" philosophy at NIH, a campus that, he observes, is broken up into discrete parts, each with special needs.

"Building 10 is a community in and of itself," he notes. "Their needs are substantially different from other areas." Other sensitive areas include buildings where animals are held for research, and day care facilities. "We want to tailor our policing to the specific needs of these various special groups."

Fuller has already set to work examining ways to improve conditions in a slew of major areas; he is assigning work groups to consider such issues as shift times, building security, recruiting, awards, equipment/uniforms, review of the police manual, and training for the 50-person force. "The chief and I are also working to form partnerships with the union (Fraternal Order of Police) that represents our officers here," he said.

"The federal government is different from county government," he allows, "but managing people is the same no matter where you go."

Despite their managerial posts, the two new chiefs won't be tied to their desks. Recently, both were seen giving directions at a dramatic scene outside the Natcher Bldg. involving drawn weapons and four arrests; a robbery suspect had come to campus where his girlfriend is employed. A rapidly developing investigation led the Montgomery County police department to join forces with the NIH Police in staking out the woman's car.

"Anything can happen here," warned DPS director Sweat. "Defendants don't know or care about jurisdictions, and sometimes they come here to hide, or to steal. Everybody thinks this place is 20 years ago, but that's simply not true. Although the reservation still enjoys a relatively low crime rate as compared to Montgomery County or D.C., the possibility of serious crime is ever present. In order to keep the NIH as safe as possible, we need everyone to be alert. NIH is not an island any more."

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