Balto. County police veteran chosen as chief in Salisbury

Webster to take command of department `in flux'

June 25, 1999|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

Salisbury officials have selected a veteran Baltimore County commander to take over the troubled Police Department in the Eastern Shore's largest city.

Maj. Allan Webster, who leads nearly 300 detectives in the county department's Criminal Investigations Division, should join the 82-member city force by Aug. 1.

"I don't see it as a big change," Webster said yesterday. "They may have some problems that are unique to that particular department or that community, but overall, it's a sound department. I'm looking forward to working to iron out any issues with the community."

Salisbury officials say they believe Webster's experience as a manager in a much larger department and his background in Baltimore County's internal affairs office will be useful as he works to diffuse continuing tension between the Salisbury force and the city's African-American community.

Local activists have twice staged marches and rallies, protesting a shooting June 4 in which two unarmed suspects were wounded in a crowded fast-food restaurant parking lot. Two officers who fired 14 shots during the incident are on administrative leave and evidence in the case is expected to be presented to a Wicomico County grand jury early next month.

"I think this marks the beginning of an era and the end of one that everyone will be glad to see end," said Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman. "I think his biggest challenge is coming in to a department that has been in flux for over a year."

Webster, who began his career 30 years ago as a 19-year-old cadet in Baltimore County, replaces Salisbury Chief Coulbourn Dykes, who was fired by Tilghman a year ago amid charges of mismanagement of cars and cash confiscated in drug raids carried out by a regional police task force. Col. Ed Guthrie has filled in as acting chief since then.

Tilghman met with Webster for 90 minutes yesterday after his approval by the City Council in a closed session Wednesday night. Among the issues to be resolved is a salary and benefits package. Webster draws an $83,000 salary, but the pay in Salisbury has been set at about $72,000 a year.

Webster was chosen from a field of 78 applicants, including the other finalist for the post, Richard Harkness, a senior lieutenant in the Police Department of New Castle County, Del.

Webster is the second high-ranking officer from the Baltimore County force to move to a municipal force on the Eastern Shore in little more than a year. A former colleague, George Harvey, retired from the county force to head the 42-member Easton Police Department last spring.

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