A county police force

Carroll County: Bolstering of sheriff's office, facilities, should lessen reliance on state troopers.

March 14, 2000

DESPITE the adamant denials, Carroll County is moving closer to having a true county police force.

Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning wants to double the number of his deputies in five years -- without increasing the county budget. It's an offer that's hard to refuse.

The new Central Booking unit at the jail effectively puts that important function for all police agencies under the sheriff.

The new jail addition gives the sheriff ample room to detain a larger number of criminals. Money for the expanded sheriff's staff will come from an agreement with the federal government to house immigration violators at the county jail.

Over the last year since Mr. Tregoning was elected, the joint countywide drug task force has been revived and the investigative units of the sheriff and the state police have been combined. That builds a new basis for cooperation that could ease the way to a county police force such as the Harford County sheriff operates.

Carroll pays for some 45 state troopers at the Westminster barracks to provide primary law enforcement coverage in the county. It's the only county to rely completely on this "resident trooper" program. But there are ongoing concerns about the effectiveness and rising costs of the program.

The program has saved money for Carroll over the past 25 years. But the growing need for law enforcement protection could make a county-run agency the more economical choice.

Mr. Tregoning notes that Carroll ranks the lowest in Maryland in the ratio of peace officers to population: 1.3 per 1,000 residents. That's barely half the national officer-to-population ratio. More officers will be needed as urban problems increasingly wash over into suburban Carroll.

A county police force was recommended by a citizen task force eight years ago to meet rapid growth. Carroll's population is 20 percent higher today.

No one wants to lead the parade, but the momentum for a county police force is underway.

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