Sheriff wants to deputize town officers

Tregoning aims to end problems of jurisdiction

Two-pronged approach

Mutual aid pacts, authority from Assembly to be sought

April 27, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A two-pronged approach will be taken to resolve limited jurisdiction of Carroll County's five town police departments, Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning said yesterday.

For the long term, Tregoning said he would join county officials to seek legislation from the Maryland General Assembly granting him authority by July 1, 2001, to deputize municipal police officers, giving them arrest powers outside town limits.

He also will ask the towns to move toward adopting mutual aid agreements with the county that would identify the circumstances in which town officers could deal with serious traffic offenses outside their jurisdictions.

"Statutory legislation is the best way to proceed, but until then, mutual aid agreements can adjust the problem," said Tregoning.

State laws do not allow town officers to deal with traffic violations outside their jurisdictions.

An obvious loophole surfaced most recently in Carroll County District Court when a case against a motorist with a blood-alcohol level of 0.22, more than twice the legal limit to sustain a conviction for drunken driving, had to be dismissed because a town officer had stopped the motorist outside of municipal limits.

Once mutual aid agreements and legislation are in place, such loopholes would effectively be closed, Tregoning said. Mutual aid agreements generally address police providing assistance in emergency situations at another agency's request. The legislation would deputize town police and give them arrest authority in some nonemergency situations.

Maryland State Police troopers serve as the county's primary source of law enforcement and are supported by sheriff's deputies. Granting arrest powers to town officers would give the county about 60 additional deputies.

Westminster and Sykesville have mutual aid agreements with the county.

Tregoning outlined his plan yesterday at a meeting with the chiefs of the five town police agencies, county officials, and representatives of the state police, the state attorney general, the state's attorney, and Local Government Insurance Trust of Columbia.

The matter was originally raised by Sykesville Chief Wallace P. Mitchell, who serves as president of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association.

While Taneytown, Manchester and Hampstead police do not have mutual aid agreements, they routinely handle calls for emergency assistance outside town limits, especially those involving possible safety concerns for troopers or deputies, said Lt. Gregory Woelfel, acting chief in Taneytown.

Existing agreements

Manchester Chief Timothy Timmons said he and Hampstead Chief Ken Meekins work closely under a mutual aid agreement between their towns.

"We already provide assistance to state police when requested, so deputizing officers will just strengthen what we are doing," Timmons said.

Westminster Chief Roger Joneckis noted that his officers drive in and out of city limits several times while traveling along Route 140.

`Stop and assist'

"If we see a crime in progress, our officers are going to take action, and if we see a traffic accident, we are going to stop and assist," Joneckis said. "Being deputized will give us additional arrest powers, but we're still going to do the job we have sworn to do."

Mutual aid agreements are not a complete cure, Tregoning said, but they would help until legislation is passed to enhance those agreements.

Other counties, such as Frederick and Harford, deputize municipal officers, and it has worked well for them, Tregoning said.

The cost in Frederick County for additional liability insurance to cover about 120 deputized officers is about $10,000, Tregoning said.

Erik S. Walter, a claims analyst for Local Government Insurance Trust, said he could not estimate what Carroll's cost to deputize town officers would be, but noted that in Harford County, where officers from Bel Air and Havre de Grace are deputized, his company had sustained no losses.

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