Lawman calls for cooperation

State police chief pick says agencies must join forces on gangs, security

June 01, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Gov. Martin O'Malley's new nominee to head the Maryland State Police said his primary goal will be to increase coordination among the state's law enforcement agencies to fight crime and improve homeland security.

Terrence B. Sheridan, who has served as Baltimore County police chief for more than a decade and who was a state trooper for 30 years before that, said he hopes to strengthen the state police's role in overseeing information exchange among departments, particularly in the fight against gangs.

"This is a serious problem that's growing. And if we let it get ahead of us, we'll have a difficult time keeping up," Sheridan said.

Sheridan said he has seen firsthand as chief how vital it is for law enforcement agencies to share information. A recent double murder in Baltimore County could never have been solved without the help of police in a half-dozen jurisdictions in Maryland, Washington and Virginia, he said.

O'Malley said yesterday that Sheridan, 63, a Parkville native and Loyola College graduate who lives in Lutherville, is uniquely qualified to be the state's top cop because of his experience in local and state law enforcement.

The governor said Sheridan's mission will include a greater presence for the state police in helping reduce crime in Baltimore.

"With Secretary Sheridan in place, I believe we can make Maryland a model in meeting public safety challenges and homeland security challenges at the same time," O'Malley said.

Sheridan replaces Col. Thomas E. "Tim" Hutchins, another long-time state trooper and a former legislator who has led the state police since 2003.

Hutchins was appointed to the post after former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s first police superintendent, Edward T. Norris, resigned amid felony charges arising from his use of a city police account to finance extramarital affairs, meals and shopping trips while serving as Baltimore police commissioner.

Members of the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance, which endorsed O'Malley in the election, had been critical of Hutchins' leadership of the department, saying he had not provided a sufficient vision for its future.

"We're excited for the change," said Ed Eicher, president of the union representing state police.

Although O'Malley chose to replace Hutchins, the governor hailed his work at a news conference yesterday outside the state police's Pikesville headquarters, saying he had done an "admirable job" and been "a total gentleman" in working with a new administration.

During his tenure, Hutchins has overseen a 400-officer increase in the state force, the procurement of new, high-tech patrol cars and the opening of a new crime lab.

One of the biggest problems Hutchins faced when taking over the department was a major backlog in the collection and analysis of DNA samples. The number remaining to be collected and processed has dropped from 26,000 to 4,000, Hutchins said.

Hutchins, who attended yesterday's announcement, said he was proud to see the post of superintendent passed to someone else who is deeply steeped in the culture and history of the state police.

"Anything I can do for you, you know I will," Hutchins told Sheridan.

andy.green@baltsun.com

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