Expected State Cuts Fuel Debate Over County Police Force

15 News Story

January 05, 1992|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

County law enforcement and court officials are starting 1992 with a swirl of questions and mounting uncertainty about the future of Carroll police protection.

Last month, the commissioners appointed a panel to study the creation of a county police force, anticipating the state will cut its contribution to the state police Resident Trooper Program.

While the idea of creating a county police force has long been a source of controversy, some of the commissioners' appointments to thepanel to explore the idea also caused a stir.

Even before letterswere sent out asking current and former county law enforcement if they wanted to join the panel, some prospective members were questioning the appointment of others.

State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman and Sheriff John H. Brown -- both of whom repeatedly have lambasted theidea of a county police force -- were upset by the appointment of former Sheriff Grover N. "Sam" Sensabaugh to the panel.

Hickman saidhe opposed Sensabaugh's appointment because the former sheriff was difficult to work with when he was in office and because he is a vocalsupporter of a county force who is likely to apply for the job of police chief.

Brown said he was insulted by the appointment of Sensabaugh, who he defeated in 1990. Brown also charged that Sensabaugh was placed on the panel because he is a "good friend of" Commissioner President Donald I. Dell. That assertion also was made by CommissionerJulia Gouge, who opposed Sensabaugh's appointment.

In addition toSensabaugh, Hickman and Brown, the commissioners also appointed Westminster state police barracks commander Lt. Kenneth Tregoning, retired state police Maj. Morris Krome, Sykesville Police Chief Wallace Mitchell, Hampstead Police Chief Kenneth Russell, Westminster Police Chief Sam R. Leppo, District Judge Donald M. Smith and the president of the Carroll Chapter of the Maryland Troopers Association, Tfc. Mike Smith, to the panel. Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck, a former state senator, declined to serve.

The county currently pays 75 percent of the costs for the 48 resident troopers, including salaries and equipment, with the state financing the balance.

The commissioners say they expect the county will have to assume the entire cost for the program in fiscal 1993 because of state budget problems.

Hickman and Brown believe the county should pick up the tab for the program, about$3 million, and keep it under the jurisdiction of the state police.

Hickman maintains starting a county force is far too expensive, citing Howard County's police budget of $18 million and Harford County's $13.5 million.

Brown's campaign for sheriff focused on the prospect of a county force, because Sensabaugh maintained it was time for Carroll to have one and that it should be under the sheriff's auspices.

Brown claims the county should think about having its own forcesome day, but "there couldn't be a worse time" than now.

Dell maintains the study is not to decide whether or not to keep the residenttroopers, but to look at the options if the state decides the program should cease to exist.

Similar studies have been undertaken, themost recent completed in 1990. That study, by the commissioners' Public Safety/Police Protection Committee, recommended expanding the Sheriff's Department into a countywide police force or establishing a new county force to gradually replace resident troopers. In either scenario, about 50 to 60 state troopers would remain in Carroll.

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