John C. Lewandowski
Northeastern District commander was known for his community policing initiatives and crime analysis
John C. Lewandowski, a decorated Baltimore police major and former commander of the Northeastern District who was known for community policing initiatives and crime analysis, died Sunday of a stroke at Baltimore Washington Medical Center.
The former longtime Locust Point resident was 77.
“John always went out of his way to help people. He had great police and people knowledge, a great sense of right and wrong, and a strong morality,” said John Reintzell, a retired Baltimore police major and longtime friend.
“He’s a cop’s cop,” said Jerry Heid, a retired city police patrolman. “When he was commander of Northeastern District, he made it the place to be.”
The son of Ted Lewandowski, a longshoreman, and Anna Lewandowski, a homemaker, John Carroll Lewandowski was born in Baltimore and raised in Locust Point.
He attended Mount Saint Joseph High School in Irvington and graduated in 1957 from City College. He served in the Navy, then joined the Baltimore Police Department in 1960 as a foot patrolman assigned to the Central District.
“He then became a plainclothes detective in Central District and was told to go and find burglars — and he did,” Mr. Reintzell said. “He knew how they operated.”
Mr. Lewandowski advanced through departmental ranks. He was promoted to sergeant in 1968, lieutenant in 1974 and captain three years later, assigned to the Northeastern District.
He became a major in 1982, then commander in 1984 of the district, where he served until 1992. He was then tapped to head the department’s property division, and retired from that post in 1994.
While working full time, Mr. Lewandowski studied business at night at what is now Loyola University Maryland and earned a bachelor’s degree.
His instincts were for crime analysis and prevention.
“He had great theories on crime and where crime was most likely to happen,” Mr. Reintzell said. “He knew where burglars sold their [stolen] wares, which was never in their neighborhood. They’d walk two or three neighborhoods away.
“He was a very astute professional and always two or three steps ahead of the rest of us,” he said.
Mr. Lewandowski could be a demanding leader, yet he was able to get people to work together.
“He wanted to teach people, and he’d take them under his wings,” Mr. Reintzell said. “He was fair, but he kept you accountable.”
“He was a fun guy, but when it was time to work ... there was no time for play, and you knew it,” Mr. Heid said. “He never asked people to do what he wouldn’t do — and that’s why he was such an inspiration to so many people and very supportive of me.
“I always wanted to be like him,” Mr. Heid said. “He may have been my boss, but he was always my friend.”
Jim Kelly, a member of the city police force for 34 years, was a colleague and friend, and said Mr. Lewandowski “had quite a military bearing.”
“He took a liking to me, and I was always impressed by his leadership skills,” said Mr. Kelly, who is assigned to the department’s canine unit. “Sometimes I would drive him, and if he saw an officer sitting alongside the road sipping a soda, that meant to him that they were not patrolling as much as they could.”
He said Mr. Lewandowski was innovative in fostering a visible presence when he was at the Northeastern District.
“He believed in community policing and putting foot squads on the streets — not just to check on businesses but in residential areas where they got to know the people,” Mr. Kelly said. “That was his imperative.”
In a prepared eulogy, Mr. Reintzell said Mr. Lewandowski brought a “soothing” influence to every situation, as well as “reason, rationality and courage.”
He recalled Mr. Lewandowski as “a muscular guy who lifted weights and ran three miles a day. He was into physical fitness.”
However, at age 46, Mr. Lewandowski suffered a stroke in 1985 that left him paralyzed on his right side.
“He had to requalify to keep his job, which meant he had to learn to shoot with his left hand and write with his left hand,” said a daughter, Anne Marie Rossbach of Locust Point. “He was a fighter and never complained. He was determined to get back to his job.”
A Pasadena resident since 2005, Mr. Lewandowski enjoyed singing and dancing, and also crafted furniture.
“Even though he had use of only one hand, he built the most beautiful furniture in his basement,” Mr. Reintzell said.
He was a communicant of Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic Church, 1532 E. Fort Ave., Locust Point, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. today.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Lewandowski is survived by his wife of 57 years, the former Rose Marie Winterling; four other daughters, Kathie Richardson, Jeannie Mack and Mary Stylc, all of Pasadena, and Margie Dorsey of Locust Point; a brother, Joseph P. Lewandowski of Davidsonville; eight grandchildren; and a greatgrandson. John C. Lewandowski “always went out of his way to help people,” a longtime friend said.