Sheriff disbands anti-drug force Deputies are shifted to providing security in court facilities

December 14, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Carroll County Sheriff John H. Brown has disbanded his agency's Drug Strike Force, citing a shortage of deputies to provide adequate security for the courthouses.

Brown said Friday he hated shutting down his strike force, but felt he had no choice because the county's circuit judges have been asking for additional security since 1994.

The sheriff formed the strike force amid controversy in September 1995, a month after removing his deputies from the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force, a joint effort among law enforcement agencies under the supervision of the state's attorney. Brown's pullout -- on the heels of the Westminster Police Department's defection -- effectively ended the joint task force.

Effective tomorrow, two of the sheriff's four strike force members will begin duty at the county courthouses.

That will bring to nine the number of deputies assigned to court security.

Deputies walk prisoners from the county jail to district and circuit courtrooms. They monitor holding cells and courtrooms during trials and hearings in the historic courthouse and the court annex, both of which are three-story buildings.

Brown declined to name the deputies he has reassigned, because he hopes to return them to undercover duty "if the shortage is ever resolved."

The sheriff said he would meet by tomorrow with Lt. Leonard Armstrong, commander of the Westminster barracks of the Maryland State Police, to turn over active cases his strike force has been working.

"I hope the state police can get the money from the [County] Commissioners to add 10 to 15 more troopers to handle the increase in drugs" in the county, Brown said.

Of the two remaining deputies on the sheriff's strike force, one will serve warrants and protective orders, and the other, a police-dog handler, will begin road patrol.

Brown has two letters, each signed by judges Raymond E. Beck Sr., Luke K. Burns Jr. and Francis M. Arnold, requesting additional court security. One letter is dated Dec. 1, 1994; the other, Sept. 2, 1997.

The most recent letter refers to a sizable increase in the number of domestic-violence cases and their accompanying protective-order hearings.

The judges noted that 67 domestic-violence cases were filed in 1993; 121 in 1994; 194 in 1995; and 308 last year -- an increase of 360 percent since 1993.

More than 500 temporary and permanent protective orders were issued last year, the judges said.

"Domestic incidents can turn violent very suddenly, but the County Commissioners don't seem to care about public safety," Brown said.

In 1994 and this year, Brown said he submitted budget requests for three extra deputies, with an anticipated cost of about $102,000 for fiscal 1996 and about $125,500 for fiscal 1999.

Brown produced a written response dated Jan. 31, 1995, from the County Commissioners that said county officials would review the request.

"I still haven't heard from [the County Commissioners] on my latest request, and I can't pull rabbits out of a hat," he said.

Beck said he regretted that the sheriff felt compelled to shut down one effective unit to bolster another, but noted that with three circuit courtrooms, two district courtrooms and two masters possibly holding hearings, seven deputies are stretched to the limit in providing security.

"The deputies are doing an excellent job, but if we have a busy docket, it really taxes them to do everything they need to do," he said.

Jerry F. Barnes, Carroll's state's attorney, said the sheriff's decision to disband his strike force would not have a serious impact on drug trafficking in Carroll.

"The state police are doing quite well, as [this month's] major marijuana bust showed," Barnes said.

Dec. 4, six Carroll County residents were arrested after a yearlong investigation of drugs arriving by courier from Texas.

Barnes said he expected state police would receive funds for extra troopers.

Pub Date: 12/14/97

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