Chief Darryl McSwain Credit: Via Maryland-National Capital Park Police

A former Montgomery County assistant police chief will take command of the county’s park police system on Monday.

Chief Darryl McSwain served in the county’s police department for more than 30 years before his retirement to take on the role of chief of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, Montgomery County Division.

McSwain said he sees the role of the park police as providing safety while still allowing visitors to enjoy local parks.

“We want to be welcoming to the millions of visitors that come and patronize the various parks throughout Montgomery County, but we also want to make sure that everyone feels welcome,” he said.

The wooded areas and water in the parks make it important that park police are also trained for search and rescue and emergency preparedness, he said. Park police still deal with some violent crimes, but McSwain said most efforts will be focused on prevention by keeping the areas secure and encouraging visitors to report suspicious behavior.

“Chief McSwain brings integrity and experience to his new job,” Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said in a statement. “He will ensure that the law enforcement agencies in Montgomery County continue to work together effectively for the benefit of all of our residents.”

McSwain joined the Montgomery County police department in 1988 and served with internal affairs and the Silver Spring district before being named the district commander for Rockville in 2005. After that, he became the director of the Special Operations Division in 2010.

In 2013, he and Luther Reynolds were both appointed to assistant chiefs at the same time. Reynolds also retired from the department weeks before McSwain to lead the police department in Charleston, South Carolina.

Some of McSwain’s most notable moments with the department came during his time leading the Special Operations Division. The division includes specialized forces, such as K9 units and SWAT teams, and also takes charge in critical life safety events.

One such event occurred in September 2010, when a gunman carrying explosives took hostages at the Discovery Communications building in downtown Silver Spring. McSwain had just recently taken command of the division, and he served as the on-scene incident commander.

The four-hour standoff, which made national headlines, ended when police fatally shot gunman James J. Lee. McSwain said it was “the longest four hours that I can recall.”

“Not only were innocent citizens in grave danger but people I have known and worked with for decades were in grave danger as well,” he said.

In the end, he credited the safe return of the three hostages with law enforcement officers and rescue officials working together exactly as they were trained.

McSwain said he has a number of happy memories of experiences with the county police as well. For 12 years, he was the coordinator for the County Law Enforcement Gospel Choir, which sang at churches, civic events and even on Capitol Hill. He said he was “happy to take on a challenge” and thought it was a “wonderful experience.”

McSwain lives with his wife, Sallye, in Silver Spring, where he’ll be able to commute to park police headquarters.

He said he looks forward to working together with county police and other local leaders that he’s come to know over the years.

“It’s always very humbling and brings a sense of pride when you see so many agencies come together as one team for the good of the community,” he said.