Big Fish, Little Fish?
In the May 8 edition of The Sun, Sylvia Badger wrote of a fishing trip that took place the day before the rockfish season opened so all had to be released. Did she not know that even fishing for them was illegal at the time? She should have, considering that Dr. Torrey Brown, secretary of Natural Resources, was also on this fishing trip, as were others who should have known better. Why didn't Dr. Brown inform everyone of this fact?
Less than two weeks after this trip, the Department of Natural Resources announced that a partial lifting of the rockfish ban was going to take place. However, this only applies to certain areas. The reason stated for opening certain areas was due to mortality rates being lower in those areas.
I would be very interested in knowing how those estimates were arrived at. I also wonder if the relaxing of those regulations was to make the above trip seem legitimate? Was it to please commercial interests as many of the department's policies seem to be? Are certain persons exempt from the law?
I do appreciate the department in some of its efforts to replenish some fish stocks, but am very concerned about the way the majority of fishermen are being treated unfairly compared to a much smaller group of commercial interests.
Sheriff Comes on the William Ford Case
In a recent press release, Michael Marshall, an attorney representing patrol deputies who are union members, has accused me of "politicizing" the death of William Ford at the Harford County Detention Center. Let's set the record straight.
William Ford's death was either an intentional suicide or an accident in the course of faking a suicide attempt. He was not raped, assaulted or abused in any way, either by other inmates or Detention Center personnel.
This is the conclusion reached by six separate investigations of his death and unanimously by 23 independent citizens of Harford County who served for nearly nine months on a grand jury investigating this incident. The grand jury was aided in its investigation by experts from the office of the Attorney General, the state's attorney, the chief medical examiner for the state of Maryland, and the state police, all of whom concurred with the grand jury's findings.
Throughout the investigation, I remained silent. As a professional law enforcement officer, I knew better than to comment on an ongoing investigation, especially a grand jury investigation that is, by law, confidential.
Staying silent was particularly difficult because the county executive used the Ford case viciously to smear the personal reputations of innocent persons who had served the citizens of Harford County with honor and distinction. Repeatedly and irresponsibly, in the public forums the death of Mr. Ford was called a "murder." Some of the correctional officers who were on duty at the time of Mr. Ford's death and who, according to the grand jury, engaged in "valiant efforts" to save his life when they found him unconscious, had to withdraw their children from school because they were taunted by other children who called their fathers "murderers."
County Executive Eileen Rehrmann continued to use the Ford case as a political weapon when she illegally threatened to withhold resources for legal defense for Maj. Dale Zepp unless he agreed to retire. Her manipulation of Major Zepp smeared the reputation of a man who has served . . . with dedication for more than 30 years. It is my understanding that Major Zepp has filed notice of intention to sue Mrs. Rehrmann and the county. . . .
There is no conceivable justification for any of this behavior by the county executive except that she sought to use the Ford case as an excuse to take control over police services in Harford County.
After the grand jury completed its investigation and cleared the detention center employees, I was finally free to comment on the Ford case.
I held a press conference in which I asked Mrs. Rehrmann to make public apologies to the detention center deputies whose names were smeared, to Major Zepp whom she manipulated and to the dedicated employees of this office who, like me, were compelled to suffer the irresponsible attacks, insults and accusations in silence. She has refused to do so.
At that same news conference, I also pointed out that the Ford case is a perfect example of why Harford County should keep its law enforcement in the hands of an independently elected sheriff who can resist the pressures and manipulation of law enforcement for political purposes. I shudder to think what would have happened to those detention center deputies, to Major Zepp, and to the other employees of this office and to the integrity of the investigative process if the county executive had the power to control police operations.