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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Time to Consider a County Police Department

George Wenschhof

George Wenschhof

After one term of charter government, an appointed charter review committee is considering recommendations to submit to the Frederick County Council for their review and consideration.  The council will decide what and if any changes will move forward as a referendum to voters on the 2022 election year ballot.

Frederick County Council president M.C. Keegan-Ayer has said in addition to the charter review committee, the council will be appointing a committee to review county elected official salaries and another to review county district boundaries.

A review would also be well advised on whether to create a county police department, an action taken by other large counties in the state.

Sheriff departments across the country were established initially to collect taxes and serve summons.  Today, some have evolved into full law enforcement agencies who also often serve as administrators of correctional facilities.

The sheriff often, as is the case in Frederick County, is an elected official with the criteria for a candidate to appear on the ballot typically being meeting an age requirement and a resident of the county.  The sheriff, being a “separate” elected official, is not answerable to the county executive or council.

As the county population and role of the sheriff department has grown, so has the budget to pay provided law enforcement services.  The funding for the sheriff department is provided by the county executive and council, creating an interesting and oftentimes frustrating situation where the county executive and council have no authority over the sheriff.  Further convoluting the relationship between county government and sheriff department is the county provides legal, human resources and other services to them.

The move by larger counties in Maryland and across the country to establish a county police force emanated from the desire to have the human resources department develop criteria (education and experience) a candidate must meet to be considered for hire as county police chief and to create a direct administrative line of responsibility between the county executive and police chief.  The county executive hires the county police chief with consent of the county council. Often, a county police department is established and a sheriff department remains that acts as the enforcement arm of the courts.

The county council should consider either tasking the existing charter review committee or creating another committee with reviewing the merits of a county police department. This would be worthwhile for county voters; a public discussion covering the pros and cons of establishing a county police department.

1 comment:

Rocky Mackintosh said...

Not in favor of this at all, George.
The backlash would be overwhelming.