Cecil sheriff proposes Wild West approach Volunteer posses to aid officers are suggested

July 26, 1996|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

ELKTON -- Cecil County Sheriff William Killough will pass up the macho talk, pink underwear and green bologna.

But he does embrace the idea of volunteer posses, a concept popularized by Joe Arpaio, the controversial Phoenix, Ariz., lawman and author who bills himself as "America's toughest sheriff."

After visiting Arpaio, Killough has proposed a volunteer posse in the northern Maryland county of 78,000 residents to assist his 43-member force with administrative, communications and crime prevention work.

Unlike his Arizona counterpart, Killough will not issue pink underwear to prisoners at the detention center to deter theft of government-issued unmentionables. Inmates will not eat spoiled bologna in the Cecil County jail, as happened in Arizona. And Cecil's volunteer deputies will not be packing guns, as do hundreds of the volunteers out west.

The Cecil volunteers would have to pass criminal background checks, be 18 or older and take several hours of training, according to Killough's proposal to county officials.

"We would have them doing work in communications, on the computers, crime prevention in the malls," Killough said. "We have five rivers off the bay with 200 miles of shorefront, and that lends itself to our needing more search and rescue people."

Killough and two Arizona deputies have scheduled a public meeting for 6 p.m. today at Cecil Community College to convince taxpayers of the value of having volunteer deputies -- a proposal that already has drawn interest from would-be participants.

Other counties and sheriffs' associations from states including Georgia, Washington, Minnesota and Ohio have contacted Arpaio to discuss setting up posses, the Arizona lawman said.

"Adding the posse would just be adding some eyes and ears, and that's always a good thing," said Killough, a retired Maryland State Police sergeant. "It's a way of trying to do more with less."

Cecil County has changed from the days in the 1960s when it was a hotbed of activity for the Ku Klux Klan. This year in Rising Sun, the Klan tried to hold a rally and a half-dozen people showed up, one resident there said.

Today, Cecil is sandwiched between Harford County, with a population of 210,000, and Delaware's New Castle County, population 450,000.

"We are experiencing problems of growth that counties see as they go from small rural places into growing communities with more people needing more services," said Oakley Sumpter Jr., president of the Cecil County Board of Commissioners, who finds the volunteer posse idea appealing.

"I'm supportive of anything to help public safety," Sumpter said of the program, which would not require formal approval for the sheriff to institute. "It won't cost anything for the volunteers, as I understand it, and it could help our citizens."

Other residents, however, do not see a Cecil posse as necessary -- especially, they say, if the Cecil volunteer force follows the lead of Arizona.

"My critics are just waiting for something to go wrong, but it hasn't," Arpaio said in an interview. "Some people don't like me because I'm an equal opportunity incarcerator," he said. "I have prisoners in Army tents and on chain gangs, females included. There's no coffee, smoking or Playboy magazines in my jail. Some people call it cruel and unusual punishment, but so what."

Duncan Pike, the owner for 11 years of Your Family Restaurant on Elkton's Main Street, views the volunteer posse idea as a waste.

"Elkton, which is dying a slow death economically, has its own little police force; so do the folks in Rising Sun," Pike said. "The state police also has a presence. Why do you need more deputies? Main Street curls up at night like a ghost town."

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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