Broader arrest powers sought

Carroll County sheriff poised to deputize town police officers

April 24, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Prosecutor Jennifer Loew remembers the case well.

Charges against a Westminster woman accused of driving with a blood-alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit were recently thrown out of court on an uncommon technicality: The Taneytown police officer who arrested her lacked jurisdiction.

Carroll County, which has five municipal police departments in addition to state police and sheriff's deputies, wants to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Carroll's municipal police chiefs will sit down Wednesday with Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning, representatives of the state attorney general and officials of Local Government Insurance Trust of Columbia, hoping to hammer out an enhanced mutual aid agreement that would grant arrest powers to town officers outside municipal limits.

If the liability issues are resolved to the satisfaction of all, Tregoning said town police officers will be deputized.

"I hope to make my decision after that meeting and announce it no later than in May," Tregoning said.

Such a move would provide the county with about 60 additional deputized officers and end the need to dismiss cases on jurisdictional grounds.

In the drunken driving case, the officer, Mark Tausendschoen, now a deputy with the sheriff's office, was parked near the round-about at the east end of town in October when he saw a vehicle speed past, said Loew, an assistant state's attorney.

Tausendschoen pulled out, engaged his radar to confirm the vehicle's speed and pulled the car over, but he was standing outside the Taneytown boundary when he arrested the driver.

District Judge Marc G. Rasinsky's dismissal of the case was in accordance with a state appellate court decision last year that affirmed lower court opinions that local police officers in Maryland are not authorized to enforce motor vehicle laws outside their home jurisdiction.

The court said trying to stop a driver for traffic violations or on suspicion that a driver is impaired constitutes enforcement of motor vehicle laws.

Such problems for town police officers who witness serious traffic violations would be resolved if they were deputized, receiving the authority from the elected sheriff of Carroll County to enforce all laws within the county, including traffic violations.

Sykesville Chief Wallace P. Mitchell recently said his town officers have frequently handled calls beyond municipal limits, but had no authority to make arrests.

Mitchell, who commands a force of six officers in the town of 3,500, was the first to request deputizing town officers to enhance a mutual aid agreement between county and municipal law enforcement agencies.

"It doesn't make sense. The reason we are out there is because no one else is immediately available," Mitchell said. "You can go out on a call, but you cannot make an arrest. You have to wait until an officer arrives from whatever jurisdiction you are in."

Sometimes, it is a long wait, he said. The town officer then must wait while the arresting officer processes paperwork and takes the suspect to central booking at the county jail in Westminster.

"Our officer would have to appear in court anyway, since he was first on the scene," Mitchell said.

Troopers based at the Westminster barracks have served as the county's primary law enforcement agency since 1974. If they request assistance under a mutual aid agreement with the state, town officers can travel beyond municipal limits to help, but do not have arrest powers.

In all emergencies, especially those involving trooper or officer safety, state and local agencies support each other, responding without concern for the liability. "If another officer needs help, you are going to go, regardless of liability," Mitchell told the Board of County Commissioners last fall.

"The commissioners have already indicated their approval, provided the liability issues are resolved," Tregoning said.

Sun staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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