Closed council session requested

March 13, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Sykesville will close part of its Town Council meeting tomorrow at the request of Police Chief Wallace P. Mitchell.

"The chief asked for a closed session to discuss a matter brought up at the last council meeting," said Town Manager James L. Schumacher, who sets the agenda. "This concerns personnel privacy."

Chief Mitchell wants to review police policy on responding to calls outside the town limits, said Mr. Schumacher.

To close the session, the council must take a vote. Members may reopen the meeting and make council deliberations public.

Mr. Schumacher said he believed that closing the session for a personnel matter -- "an employee and council relationship" -- was a legitimate reason. Mayor Kenneth W. Clark said he saw no reason to close the meeting if the discussion is limited to police policy.

"If the extent of the discussion is on police response outside of town, I don't think we have to close the meeting," said Mr. Clark.

The mayor and Chief Mitchell were not present at the Feb. 28 meeting, when Councilman Garth Adams discussed residents' concerns about the number of police calls outside the town limits.

"Many residents are complaining that police have been outside the town limits for long periods of time," said Mr. Adams. "Whether this is true or not, the perception must be addressed."

Mr. Clark said he has reviewed taped minutes of that meeting, but has not yet spoken with Chief Mitchell. The six town officers often assist state police in the South Carroll area, said Councilman Eugene E. Johnson. "If I were a policeman, I would surely want to know someone would be coming to help me if needed," Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Adams said he had "no problem with backing up another officer. But, why are we basically footing the bill for other areas in the county?"

The town should consider limiting its responses outside the town to instances "of total harm either to an officer or a citizen," Mr. Adams said.

Mr. Clark called that concept "shortsighted."

"We don't go zipping out of town at every call, but our officers back up other officers," the mayor said. "If we didn't, we couldn't expect likewise."

Councilman Walter R. White said the chief "is adamant about providing assistance to officers in danger."

Councilwoman Julie Kaus said it was inappropriate to discuss the Police Department without Chief Mitchell's input.

Mr. Schumacher said he would ask Chief Mitchell to bring statistics and a policy statement to the next council meeting.

Chief Mitchell declined to comment on his position or Mr. Adams' remarks. "We will be discussing it Monday night," he said.

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