Menace to public safety Frederick: Sheriff's department needs to answer for excessive attacks on traffic violators.

July 06, 1998

"THAT'S OUR JOB," says the Frederick County sheriff's office, defending two excessive attacks by deputies on two traffic violators last month.

Restraint and professional conduct, unfortunately, do not appear to be part of that job. The FBI is investigating the deputies' actions.

A Frederick deputy repeatedly beat a motorist who was in diabetic shock, ordered a K-9 dog to attack and sprayed the man with chemicals.

Later, other deputies stopped a teacher driving to a religious retreat, pulled her out and slammed her against the vehicle, handcuffing her for a trip to the station, where she was put in leg shackles.

To be sure, both motorists were driving in an unusual, even reckless, manner, with potential danger to other vehicles. They needed to be removed from the road expeditiously. But the officers involved apparently showed no discretion.

The diabetic was driving erratically and later traveling in the wrong direction. He kept the engine running after being forced off the road, and he appeared to be in a state of rage as officers tried to extract him from his car.

The teacher was driving 38 miles an hour in a 55-mph zone, blocking traffic and refusing to pull over for police cars with sirens blaring.

The overreaction by deputies is a black eye for the county, and for Sheriff James W. Hagy. The sheriff should know it. Voters in the upcoming election should know it.

A medic alert bracelet stating the man's diabetic condition was found by a state trooper at the scene. Emergency rescue personnel recognized his condition, as did the hospital physician. He was charged with multiple offenses nonetheless.

The disoriented teacher was roughly cuffed by deputies with drawn guns. She reportedly was not informed of charges until reaching the station.

Supervisors were involved in these decisions, placing blame directly on the sheriff and his office. His job is to serve the citizens in upholding public safety, not to inflict unthinking violence against motorists in need of help.

Pub Date: 7/06/98

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