Drug force makes arrest Event taken as sign politics left behind

October 02, 1995|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,SUN STAFF

Sheriff John H. Brown's controversial new drug strike force made its first arrest last week, a sign that politics has not interfered with drug enforcement in Carroll, other local police said.

The sheriff said he is sharing information with Westminster police and Maryland state troopers on drug-related investigations, just as he did before pulling out of the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force in August.

"Just because I'm out of the task force doesn't mean there will be a lack of cooperation," Sheriff Brown said Friday.

Enforcement has continued without any lapses, and drug-enforcement agencies regularly share information, said Maryland State Police spokesman Michael J. McKelvin and Westminster police Lt. Dean Brewer.

"We were sorry to see the task force go by the wayside, but it hasn't hurt any investigations and it hasn't hurt the way we fight crime in Carroll County," Mr. McKelvin said.

Law enforcement agencies involved in local drug cases, including the FBI and federal Drug Enforcement Administration, meet monthly to review cases, he said.

Lieutenant Brewer said, "It's our responsibility to work together."

The 7-year-old task force dissolved after Westminster Police Chief Sam R. Leppo and the sheriff pulled out, citing disagreements with State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes, who supervised the group. The sheriff said "politics had crept into" the task force. The state police also were part of the task force.

Sheriff Brown said he and the four deputies on his strike force have been working on drug cases for about 2 1/2 weeks and have almost two dozen open investigations. The deputies previously had worked with the county task force, he said.

Their first arrest was for a relatively minor violation, possession of a quarter-ounce of marijuana. Because the suspect has agreed to help deputies make other arrests, the sheriff did not want to release the man's name.

Sheriff Brown caused a stir in August when he asked the County Commissioners for $2,500 to start his own drug strike force. Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown objected, saying the sheriff should limit his duties to manning the detention center and providing courthouse security. The other two commissioners voted to give the sheriff the money.

Commissioner Brown, who is not related to the sheriff, had not changed his view last week. "I wish he would wise up and assist the state police," he said of the sheriff.

The commissioners and sheriff were scheduled to discuss the strike force and other issues Wednesday morning, but Sheriff Brown did not attend the meeting. He said later that a county secretary told him the meeting had been postponed until Friday. The meeting will be rescheduled.

Friday, the sheriff said he will not change his mind about operating his own strike force. "Things are going to be done my way when it comes to this," he said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he expects political wrangling over the strike force to continue because "there's not a lot of friendship between the two Browns." He said the ill will began when Commissioner Brown was mayor of Westminster.

Commissioner Brown was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Dell said he would like the sheriff to detail how he is spending the county's $2,500. "I'd like to know if he spent the money and used it successfully," he said.

Sheriff Brown said he would give the commissioners general information about spending, but would not disclose details that might jeopardize cases or informants.

"I'm only going to give Commissioner Brown so much information, or any of the commissioners," he said. "There's no way I'm going to tell the commissioners who got what. I don't care if they audit it every month."

Friday, the sheriff said "a large portion" of the $2,500 is unspent. He said he will have to stretch the money to do the job. "We're trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear," he said.

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