Legislation Proposed To Aid Police, Fire Companies

Powers Sought Forstate's Attorney's Investigators

January 26, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — Bill Dugan helps the Westminster barracks of the Maryland State Police and Carroll's municipal police departments investigate homicides, robberies, child abuse, rape and other serious offenses.

Yet undercurrent law, the investigator for the Carroll State's Attorney's Office can't make an arrest if the subject he is interviewing unexpectedly confesses.

And though the former Baltimore County police officer has his owngun permit, the statute does not authorize him to carry a weapon as an investigator.

So, for the third year, Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman has submitted to the Carroll delegation a "housekeeping bill" to permit the office to employ investigators and to outline their powers, duties and limitations.

"We've changed the way we do business since the statute was passed," Hickman told the legislators here Wednesday. "We want to make the statute comply with the way we do business."

The investigators "plug holes" for police departments that often are understaffed and swamped with cases, said Hickman.

Hickman also proposed a provision authorizing the office to employ "special assistants" in cases involving a conflict of interest. Theoffice now has an agreement with the Howard County state's attorney to trade lawyers when a conflict exists, such as a case involving a relative of a state's attorney's office employee.

Even though Carroll and Howard counties follow that practice, it is not authorized by statute. Hickman estimates the practice saves the county $60,000 or more annually.

Previously, the courts would appoint lawyers in cases involving a conflict -- about 12 to 15 times annually -- at $40 to $60 per hour, said Hickman.

The office employs two full-time investigators -- Dugan, a 21-year Baltimore County officer with experiencein narcotics and "career criminal" divisions, and Lanny Holcombe, who retired as a corporal after 22 years with the state police.

Holcombe, who spent much of his career as a Carroll resident trooper, is a full-time child support investigator, while Dugan handles a wider variety of cases.

"It's no hidden agenda or end run," said Hickman,adding the legislation would have no fiscal impact since the investigators are covered under the existing budget.

The county commissioners must approve the appointment of investigators, whose salaries range from $27,000 to $40,000. Hickman said he has discussed hiring a third investigator.

The six-member delegation rejected the proposalin 1989 and 1990, partly because municipal police departments expressed concern the investigators might move in on their cases. The legislators questioned whether investigators should be authorized to carryguns. Also, Hickman did not introduce the proposal through the commissioners, considered the proper channel for such requests.

But Wednesday, the four legislators present said they supported the request.

"My concern would be how local police agencies feel," said Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, adding he believed investigators should be allowed to carry weapons.

Hickman presented the delegation a letter, signed by the county sheriff, the state police lieutenant and five municipal police chiefs, advocating the legislation and saying Dugan "has been a great help to us" in his three years as investigator.

Hickman said until five years ago, he opposed hiring investigators because "we didn't want to compete with the police. But itgot to the point where we had to have them."

den agenda or end run."

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