Public watchdog to public enemy? Carroll County: State police were overzealous in arrest of environmentalist Haines.

November 01, 1995

MONROE G. HAINES SR. probably cares about Longwell Branch, the tiny stream that courses through downtown Westminster along Railroad Avenue, as much as he cares about anything in life. The 73-year-old retiree singlehandedly focused attention on this small waterway and forced officials to improve its appearance and more seriously enforce anti-pollution laws.

Now, he has been arrested for his work.

Although Mr. Haines has received a gubernatorial citation and other awards for his efforts, not everyone appreciates his unwavering vigilance. He has regularly embarrassed businesses for dumping chemicals into the stream, which is significant because it ultimately flows to the Patapsco River and then Chesapeake Bay. Angry businessmen even turned fire hoses on him a couple of times to drive him away. Elected officials and bureaucrats have asked him to leave their offices. But earlier this fall, Mr. Haines got his roughest treatment yet from a state trooper.

Over a period of years, Mr. Haines has carefully monitored Gary's Radiator Service, an auto repair shop on John Street, to see if it had been polluting Longwell Branch. His complaints resulted in 40 or 50 spot inspections of Mr. Johnson's business by state and county agencies. No violations were ever found.

Mr. Johnson, apparently aggravated that Mr. Haines had targeted him for scrutiny, complained to the state police in early September that Mr. Haines was harassing him. Tfc. Karl D. Wantz responded and found Mr. Haines sitting on a swing in a school yard, spying on Mr. Johnson's business through binoculars.

The trooper arrested Mr. Haines on the spot and placed him in handcuffs. They apparently were employed too tightly, injuring Mr. Haines' left wrist. Because his hands were restricted, he could not balance himself and fell to ground as he was taken from the patrol car.

The state police, under Col. David B. Mitchell, should be embarrassed by their treatment of Mr. Haines. He may be a stubborn and opinionated man, but those are not criminal qualities. After reviewing the case, the state's attorney's office quickly dropped the charges. The only thing left is for the state police to apologize for this grievous mistake.

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