Hickman Seeks Authority

August 18, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

The state's attorney for Carroll has requested legislation that would allow the office to appoint investigators with police powers, including the authority to carry guns, make arrests and serve court papers.

State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman met with two county commissioners Thursday to explain the proposal and persuade them to include itin the package to be submitted to Carroll's state legislators later this year.

The Carroll delegation decided not to submit the proposal as legislation in 1989 and 1990, and did not discuss it formally during the past session.

Several legislators have expressed concern in the past about state's attorney staff performing police duties.

Hickman said revisions are necessary in the current law outlining powers of the state's attorney because staff members now are performing "police-type" investigative work, including carrying weapons, that is not legally defined or covered by statute.

"I have one investigator working on a murder case now," Hickman said. "I want him to be able to do everything police officers can do in handling that matter."

Two investigators are hired by Hickman and paid by the county. Hickman saidhe hires former police officers.

The proposed legislation also would allow the office to appoint special assistant state's attorneys to aid in the investigation or prosecution of a case. Now, when the office deems a case to be a conflict of interest, an assistant state's attorney from another county is appointed, said Hickman. However, current law does not provide for these informal arrangements.

"Our office is doing a lot of things that aren't accounted for in the statute," Hickman said. "This proposal would allow us to do those things. I'd like to clarify what we can and can't do."

For example, the office will be assisted this week by an assistant attorney general in prosecuting a drug proceeds forfeiture case. The office will swear in the assistant, empowering him to serve for the county, even though statute doesn't provide for that, Hickman said.

Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, said the delegation did not introduce the proposal previously partly because it had not been presented to the county commissioners.

"We're reluctant to put in bills when they don't go through the public hearing process," he said.

Dixon said he was not concerned about the provision allowing state's attorney investigators to carry weapons or make arrests.

Several legislators said they did not recall details of the proposal or the specific rationale for rejecting it.

"I'll keep an open mind and let the state's attorney explain why he wants it again," said Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said he expects the commissioners will include the proposal among their annual legislative requests.

"I can't find any real objection to anything set forth there," he said.

Hickman said his proposal is based on a compilation of statutes authorizing powers for state's attorneys in otherMaryland counties and does not set precedent.

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