Two sheriff candidates downplay inexperience CAMPAIGN 1994

September 04, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

Two Republican candidates for Howard County sheriff say their inexperience in law enforcement wouldn't hinder their job performance.

Theodore Morse, a senior technical assistant for AT&T Corp, scoutmaster and former rancher, is competing against Richmond Laney, an Army Reserve captain.

The two Ellicott City residents say they intend to boost the profile and expand the role of the Sheriff's Department, a small, but key county law enforcement agency.

The winner of the Sept. 13 primary election will try to unseat Howard County Sheriff Mike Chiuchiolo, a 25-year Howard police veteran who is seeking a second four-year term and is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

"I'm determined to be a force for good in the community," Mr. Laney, 37, says. "The idea that you have to have a law enforcement background to be sheriff is invalid."

Mr. Laney was the uncontested GOP nominee for sheriff in 1990, losing in the general election to Mr. Chiuchiolo, a Clarksville resident.

Both Republicans say they would increase the strength and influence of the department and extend the duties of sheriff's deputies to responsibilities that aren't being met by the county Police Department.

"I'd like to take [the role of sheriff] deeper and get involved with the people," Mr. Morse, 56, says. "I don't think the police are supporting the community."

Mr. Morse says his main objective is expansion into criminal investigations, including dealing with vandalism, car theft and drug and alcohol abuse.

"If anything happens, the sheriff doesn't get called," Mr. Morse says.

Mr. Laney says he not only wants the sheriff to back up police officers but to act as an independent agency to oversee police ethics. Mistrust exists between the Police Department and residents, he says, and grew with the death of Carl "Jon" Bowie of Columbia in 1990.

Mr. Bowie was found hanging from a backstop at Oakland Mills High School four months after he and his twin brother complained of police brutality by officers who broke up their party at a Jessup motel.

"You need a sheriff in there as one law enforcement officer citizens can come to and be independent of the Police Department," he says.

Sheriff Chiuchiolo, 53, contends that the GOP candidates' goals of overlapping duties with police officers indicate lack of familiarity with his job.

"My opponents obviously don't know they're precluded from doing that in Howard County," the sheriff says.

"They're fooling themselves if they think they can come to a sheriff's office without any background in law enforcement management," he says. "This isn't a good old boy network where you just sit back. Everything we do is law enforcement-related."

The incumbent, who has been serving since December 1990, is confident of winning the Nov. 8 general election.

He says two of his greatest accomplishments were reorganizing the department and hiring more former police officers, who have experience in law enforcement.

With no primary opposition, Mr. Chiuchiolo says he will not use his election signs until after Sept. 13.

Mr. Chiuchiolo wasn't so relaxed in the last primary, when he beat the incumbent Democrat and two other contenders.

"We're ready to roll," he says.

Both his Republican challengers express confidence.

Mr. Morse acknowledges his lack of experience in law enforcement, but says the time he spent farming, ranching and logging in his hometown of Anaconda, Mont., help him identify with people.

"He just likes to run," Mr. Morse says of his Republican opponent. "I'm not too worried about him in the primary. "

In 1990, Mr. Laney ran for both the sheriff's office and for the Republican Central Committee in Howard County. He won a four-year term on the Central Committee that ends this year.

"I'm not a great one for starting up and saying how great I am, but I believe I will win the primary," Mr. Laney says.

Whoever wins the sheriff's office in the general election will supervise of staff of 48 -- 24 of them sworn deputies -- and control a $2 million operating budget. The sheriff's annual salary is $38,000.

Though the Howard County Police Department handles active criminal investigations, the state Constitution recognizes the Sheriff's Department as the chief law enforcement agency in the county.

The Sheriff's Department is responsible for court security, transporting prisoners and serving court papers and warrants. Deputies, who have the power to make arrests and are sworn to protect citizens' lives, assist other law enforcement agencies upon request.

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