Commissioners' Dangerous Wager CARROLL COUNTY

March 25, 1993

By refusing to obtain portable radios for its deputy sheriffs who serve summonses and warrants, Carroll's penny-wise and pound-foolish county government is making an extremely dangerous wager. It is betting that improperly equipped sheriffs can do their jobs without suffering harm.

Given what happened to Deputy Sheriff Edward Smith last week, the county ought to end this gamble. Mr. Smith, a 22-year police veteran, was almost taken hostage by a gun-wielding man he was trying to arrest. Without a back-up partner or a radio, Mr. Smith was at the mercy of the man, whom he was picking up for a probation violation. Ultimately, the distraught man shot and killed himself.

This was the second close brush for Mr. Smith.

In December, while arresting a man for failure to appear in court, Mr. Smith had to deal with four of the man's friends who were prepared to interfere with the arrest. The deputy had to draw his gun, handcuff the culprit to a bed and find a pay phone to call for a second deputy to assist with the arrest.

Gone are the days when standard communications equipment for law enforcement officers consists of a whistle and an espantoon. For a law enforcement officer today, a portable radio is as important as a gun because it provides constant communication.

Sheriff John H. Brown's request for 12 radios was denied last year. Two reasons were offered at the time: It didn't make sense to purchase new radios that would be obsolete once the county's new emergency radio system is installed. And there wasn't money for it anyway.

Today, neither reason is valid.

It appears that installation of a new emergency communications system has been delayed another year; it may be five or six years before it is operational. By that time, portable radios purchased now will have depreciated and be at the end of their useful lives.

As for the cost, it isn't prohibitive. To supply deputy sheriffs with portable radios, the aging car radios must be replaced. The estimated cost is $72,000 for 12 radios.

Common sense calls for buying the radios. The commissioners can locate thousands of extra dollars for certain land purchases. They can surely find the money to properly equip their law enforcement officers.

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