Deputy says officers lack tools for job Risky situations cited in appeal for police radios

March 19, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

Carroll County Sheriff's Deputy Ed Smith said it would have been helpful to have had a portable radio to call for backup when the man he was trying to arrest Tuesday night pointed a .32-caliber revolver at him.

He said it was the third time that the lack of equipment had put him in danger.

"If they want us to do the job, they have to supply us with the necessary equipment to do the job," Deputy Smith said.

Stanley Anthony Dobson, 25, forced Deputy Smith at gunpoint to read a suicide note shortly before Mr. Dobson fatally shot himself Tuesday night in his Hampstead apartment.

Deputy Smith, a retired Baltimore City Police officer and two-year member of the sheriff's department, said that situations like the one he found himself in Tuesday night are unfortunate, but not uncommon.

"I have been involved in potentially dangerous incidents where I could have used a radio twice in the last year," said Deputy Smith, referring to earlier incidents.

In one of those incidents, he said that he had to draw his gun to hold off several people in an apartment as he tried to arrest a Westminster man. He had to leave the belligerent prisoner handcuffed on a bed while he called for backup from a kitchen phone. That was in December, he said.

"There were four or five other people in that apartment that could have become violent," Deputy Smith said. "He [the suspect] had been hiding in a closet when I got there, and I didn't know whether he had a gun or weapon in there."

In the other incident, Deputy Smith said, he and a supervisor were caught in a shootout when they tried to arrest a man in a North Carroll apartment. When state police arrived as backup, the man opened fire through a window. Deputy Smith and his supervisor couldn't get to their car radio to warn the troopers that the man was armed.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said yesterday that, while he empathizes with the deputy, he doesn't agree that a radio would have helped as Deputy Smith faced Mr. Dobson.

"If the deputy had reached for a radio, he may have been shot," Mr. Lippy said. "I am not saying that there is no cause for us as the county commissioners to provide the radios, but in this situation, I can't see where a radio would have helped.

"I'm not making light of the situation by saying I didn't know how much help a radio would have been," Mr. Lippy said. "I know if I had been in that situation, it would have scared me skinny, and that's quite a feat."

Mr. Lippy said that the commissioners are looking at the equipment situation in the budget process.

"Sheriff [John H.] Brown knows that we are operating on a tight budget," Mr. Lippy said. "I know that it is an important issue. I talked to the wife of one of the deputies who voiced the same hTC concerns."

Sheriff Brown said yesterday that county officials do not understand the workings of law enforcement.

"You have people who try to make decisions about public safety who know nothing about public safety," he said. "My deputy was very lucky in this situation.

"What is it going to take for someone to realize that there are some things that shouldn't be cut? There have to be some priorities."

The sheriff said that his department is investigating Mr. Dobson's suicide, which occurred as Deputy Smith attempted to arrest him on a bench warrant for failing to appear in court March 8 for a probation violation.

Mr. Dobson was on probation for malicious destruction and reckless endangerment, according to Carroll County Circuit Court records. His conviction stemmed from a vandalism spree in March 1991, when he drove through Manchester and Hampstead as another man shot car windows with a BB gun.

Dobson was convicted in September 1991 and sentenced to three years' probation, one year supervised and two years unsupervised.

Mr. Dobson was cited for violating the conditions of that probation in January and was scheduled to appear before a Circuit Court judge March 8.

The bench warrant was issued when he did not appear.

Mr. Dobson apparently was upset about a recent separation from his wife and child, Sheriff Brown said.

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