A law enforcement trailblazer with more than 30 years of experience is set to take over as chief of the Dewey Beach Police Department Friday, Jan. 20.
Commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 13 to approve a resolution appointing Constance Speake to the position left vacant when former Chief Sam Mackert retired in June.
“I’m excited about this change and I’m ready for the challenge,” Speake said. “I get along with everybody, and I won’t have any issues fitting in. Everyone is being so cordial with me, coming in from out of state. I hope everyone accepts me, and I plan to stay as long as my health is good.”
Before being sworn in, Speake must obtain her Delaware Council on Police Training certification; she begins classes toward the prerequisite Monday, Jan. 23 and expects to complete the approximately 230 hours of training in six to seven weeks.
During this period, Speake plans to spend as much time in Dewey as she can, meeting with residents and business owners to hear about their issues and changes they’d like to see, and individually with her officers to learn about their goals.
Speake said she also plans to reach out to other local chiefs, many of whom provide assistance to Dewey during large events, to tap into their knowledge and expertise.
Throughout her career, Speake said, she was encouraged to seek a chief position because of her well-rounded background. When the position in Dewey became vacant, she said it was the perfect opportunity to offer her experience.
Formerly a Maryland resident, Speake and her husband Richard vacationed at the Delaware beaches for years before they purchased their Millsboro home more than two years ago. Speake had been commuting to her job in Annapolis, Md., before accepting the position with Dewey.
“We’ve jet-skied in Dewey and eaten at the restaurants,” she said. “It’s a fun and upbeat town, and everyone is happy.”
A military baby, Speake was born in Alaska when her father was stationed there. When she was 12, they moved to Washington state. After high school, Speake lived in Paris for a year to attend the Language Institute; her mother was French.
When she returned to the United States, Speake joined the Army at age 19, serving two years active duty and one year in the reserves. She was assigned to the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, then shifted into a civilian communications position.
A little over a year later, Speake joined the Laurel Police Department in Maryland, and four years later joined the Mount Rainier City Police Department in Maryland. She graduated from Prince George’s Municipal Police Academy at the top of her class, and became Mount Rainier’s first female officer to graduate from the academy.
Speake returned to the Laurel Police Department, where she rose from officer to corporal, and sergeant to lieutenant. In these roles, she was also a training officer and active shooting instructor.
Following these positions, Speake rose to captain, serving as commander of the uniform patrol division, the department’s largest division, which included the emergency response team and K-9 unit; captain of the support services division, including community policing unit and communications; and captain of the special operations division, including criminal investigations, homicides and narcotics enforcement.
While with Laurel, Speake served on the team charged with protecting schools during the D.C. sniper attacks in 2002. She became the first female SWAT team member and later became SWAT commander, and ended her career as the city’s highest-ranking female officer.
In 2016, Speake was ready for change and took a position as deputy sheriff of the Anne Arundel County Office of the Sheriff, where she served protective orders, eviction notices and summonses.
In her downtime, Speake and her husband enjoy exploring the area and taking their dogs to the beach, including walking the trail from Cape Henlopen to Rehoboth Beach.
Her daughter is in her third year at Greensboro College in North Carolina and works at Hammerheads in the summer. Her stepdaughter, a Montessori teacher, lives with her family in Alabama, and her three older brothers still live in Washington state.
Speake said her biggest goal as Dewey’s new chief is to serve and protect the town’s citizens, business owners and visitors. Transparency, honesty and integrity are paramount, she said, along with hard work, dedication, visibility and loyalty.
“That’s been my go-to for 37 years,” she said. “That’s me. You’ve got to take care of your people and town. That’s why you’re in law enforcement. Everyone needs to be treated with dignity and respect. That’s my philosophy of law enforcement.”