Brown vs. Brown

September 12, 1995

Fighting over which law enforcement agencies should be waging the war on drugs in Carroll County has reached a ridiculous stage. It is understandable that the demise of the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force would create a temporary vacuum in the local drug enforcement effort. But in the past several weeks, the situation has degenerated into a nasty political row as every law enforcement agency in the county maneuvers to fill the void.

Last week, county Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown and Sheriff John H. Brown had a messy public spat over the sheriff's proposed drug "strike force." Commissioner Brown opposes the sheriff's initiative and voted against the $2,500 appropriation of seed money. Commissioner Brown argued that the short-staffed sheriff's office should not be diverting personnel to handle police duties that others are already handling. Sheriff Brown bitterly disagreed and took his case to the press.

Against this backdrop, the commissioners held a press conference last week announcing their support for a state police drug enforcement effort. Their mixed message -- supporting the state police while financing Sheriff Brown's "strike force" -- only added to the confusion. Commissioner Richard T. Yates was quoted as saying he didn't "care" which policy agency was fighting drugs. Mr. Dell said Sheriff Brown was using seized drug money to finance his unit.

Sheriff Brown may have men trained and equipped to handle drug investigations, but his primary job is to handle court security, run the detention center and serve legal papers. Running a police unit may result in a few attention-grabbing headlines, but it detracts from his office's other responsibilities.

If Carroll's drug enforcement effort is to be effective, each law enforcement agency should do its assigned job. As long as the county doesn't have its own police force, designating the state police as the primary police agency to investigate and arrest drug dealers is the most sensible arrangement for fighting drugs in Carroll.

The state's attorney should prosecute and convict them and stay clear of investigations. We have already witnessed the problems created when the state's attorney tries to play policeman. If Sheriff Brown wants to have a role in the war against drug peddlers and users, he can incarcerate them.

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