Police want to solidify aid pact

Deputized officers would help county

November 09, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Sykesville Police Department would like to "beef up" its mutual aid agreement with the county by deputizing officers called to emergencies outside town limits, said town Police Chief Wallace P. Mitchell.

"We want to deputize officers so they can go out into the county," said Mitchell in a meeting with the county commissioners yesterday. "It would mean more police efficiency. We want to make this agreement stronger and provide a safer atmosphere for our citizens."

Sykesville "may send personnel and/or equipment to aid the requesting party to the extent consistent with the efficient operation," according to the agreement signed last year by the town and the county commissioners. But town officers serve as backups until state police or sheriff's deputies arrive.

"Maryland statutes give us the authority to go out to other jurisdictions, but we need the authority to make arrests, to expedite situations," said Mitchell. "Why are we there in the first place? It is because nobody else is available."

Mitchell has served the town for 13 years and has never had a problem responding to calls outside Sykesville, he said. Carroll Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning applauded the concept but has questions about liability issues.

"We sorely need this. There are too few police officers," Tregoning said. "I could endorse this, if liability issues were clearer. Each police entity handles liability for its own officers. Deputizing could toss us into a different arena."

South Carroll has the largest number of police calls, the sheriff said.

Tregoning plans to research the liability issues and ensure other jurisdictions are aware of Sykesville's request. He asked Mitchell to organize a meeting with other town police chiefs to discuss strengthening the agreement.

"I want it very clear in what circumstances officers could and could not act," said Tregoning. "Basically, I would think they would be responsible for incidents relatively close to town limits or on the way to and from work.

"Liability is a concern, but it is not the overriding factor here," said Tregoning. "The enhancement of public safety must prevail."

Steven Powell, county budget director, said "a few well-inserted words" could probably amend the agreement to suit the chief. Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he was in favor of bolstering the agreement.

"I would hate to think that a state trooper was getting the heck beat out of him by thugs and nobody would be authorized to help," said Dell.

Mitchell, who has 37 years' experience in law enforcement and is president of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, said it would not come to that.

"If another officer needs help, you are going to go, regardless of liability," said Mitchell.

Sykesville is the only one of Carroll's eight towns to participate in the mutual aid agreement. The town's location is putting additional demands on its Police Department, said Mitchell. As many as 20 percent of its calls annually are from outside its jurisdiction.

Its police force, which includes the chief, six state-certified officers and a police dog unit, frequently responds to traffic accidents and other emergencies in Eldersburg.

"South Carroll is growing, and we are experiencing a lot of calls either to assist or to handle, if no one is available," said Mitchell. "The mutual aid agreement helps enforce our efforts, but we want to beef it up. We want to work for all citizens, not just those living in Sykesville."

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