WESTMINSTER - The winner in the hard-fought race for county sheriff was sworn into office this week, and the atmosphere of change was evident.
John H. Brown, until Monday an investigator in the county Public Defender's Office and a 25-year veteran of the Baltimore City Police, took his oath of office in a crowded courtroom in the old courthouse building.
Brown, who wore a dark-blue pin-striped suit and red tie, contrasts sharply with his predecessor, Grover N. "Sam" Sensabaugh, who spent 28 years in state police uniform and continued to wear a uniform when he became sheriff in 1982.
And while clothes don't make the sheriff, Brown's tailored suit may give some clues as to what lies ahead for the only county-run law enforcement agency.
Brown declined to give any details about his plans for the Sheriff's Department Monday -- except to say that he won't be wearing a uniform.
During the campaign, Brown repeatedly denounced Sensabaugh's plans to make the Sheriff's Department the county's 24-hour police force, which would patrol and perform criminal investigations along with its constitutionally mandated duties.
It is expected that Brown will steer the department away from law enforcement and emphasize the administrative duties of running the county Detention Center, transporting prisoners and serving court papers.
"Obviously, I will have to work within the confines of what the County Commissioners want," said Brown, 61. "But I know there will be changes."
One controversy in Sensabaugh's administration unlikely to surface under Brown concerns 9mm semiautomatic handguns. Sensabaugh tried unsuccessfully during the last year of his administration to buy the guns, but the County Commissioners refused to allow the purchase.
Brown has said he thinks the guns are not necessary, especially if the deputies' criminal work is reduced.
He said his first priority in office will be the budget, which is due to the County Commissioners Dec. 28.
Another project that will take precedence is the April construction of an addition to the Detention Center to relieve overcrowding.
Representatives of the county State's Attorney's Office, Public Defender's Office, and other courthouse personnel were among the standing-room-only crowd at Brown's swearing-in ceremony, which was presided over by Circuit judges Luke K. Burns Jr. and Raymond E. Beck.
Sensabaugh did not attend.
Recently appointed Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold also attended. He is expected to be sworn into office in the next few weeks.
Chief Sheriff's Deputy Charles Fowler also was sworn in Monday.