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Advertise on the Tentacle

November 30, 2012

Acting with Astuteness

Harry M. Covert

It’s always exciting for reporters and editors when new police chiefs, sheriffs and judges are appointed. Readers love these stories and I can attest to that after years of covering and then working in law enforcement.


Forget all the cop stories on television. It’s absolutely heaven for newspaper scribes to participate in police raids, meet some of the miscreants being arrested and work with the First Responders. Those men and women sworn to protect the public do their work under constant peril and stress and strain.


Resulting news stories are not always pleasant but they are valuable, keeping the public informed, especially in this day and age when we can get the news instantly in our emails and through all types of technology.


A few days ago we heard that Frederick has named an acting police chief while they, allegedly, search nationwide for a permanent chief to replace Chief Kim Dine.


I’m prejudiced in this. There are two deputy chiefs and one of them, Capt. Thomas Ledwell, will take over as the acting police chief on December 5. A 20-year veteran with 13 years in a command position, Captain Ledwell has earned his position. I’ve never met the new “chief” or his colleague, but I do know the “acting” status is silly and wasteful.


When there is proven talent in the department, there is no sense trying to fool the public with a national search. Frederick doesn’t need an outsider, who doesn’t know the men and women of the department – or any of the citizens. In my experience, bringing in a new chief from New York or some other place will not be good for the growing community.


Usually, a retired police lieutenant will be selected because local leaders think it’s good to get a new look. Please don’t, I urge the mayor. Go ahead and put the silver eagles on Captain Ledwell and don’t waste any time or money with a search when you have a competent and prepared leader in your midst. Frederick City Police don’t need a leader from Baltimore, Washington, New York or anywhere else. To do such a thing will bring great misery to the team already in place and knows all of the nooks-and-crannies of the city.


It’s not law enforcement’s fault that crime occurs in our city. When citizens run amok and then act as though its everyone else’s fault, that’s when uniformed officers and detectives have to come in and do the job and usually with great risk.


I can recall the time when a juvenile delinquent, and I know that phrase is from a different era, was in a police lock up, still handcuffed. He started chipping away at the porcelain toilet in his cell and was throwing the chunks at the windows and yelling and screaming. The desk sergeant and others tried to calm him down, almost pleading with him to stop. After more than 30 minutes in this ordeal, the shift commander took over. He walked to the cellblock, pulled out his polished .38-cal. Smith & Wesson. He looked the little snot in the eye and in a calm manner said: “You’d better stop this now or I’m going blow your brains out.”


When the commander cocked his pistol, the boy slumped.


The next day’s paper carried the story. Front-page byline. I loved it.


In my day, I often went on police raids. On one December Saturday night, a big-time joint operation was scheduled with city and state police, even the game warden, a justice of the peace (forerunner to magistrates), a couple of federal agencies (police and Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms personnel.


I reminded the commander my deadline was 12:30 in the morning. I wanted to make a splash in the Sunday paper.


I was told the raid would be on a major gambling syndicate operating with the high rollers from all over the east coast. Indeed, the card sharks with pinkie rings abundantly on display and lots of cash on the tables were busy. It was an exciting moment seeing all of the money flowing, other accoutrements and more participants arriving as the night went on.


At 11:45, the raiding party entered the front and back doors of the restaurant. Guns drawn, yelling and screaming and cash being stuff everywhere – shoes and socks, pockets. I drank in the moment.


When it was over, some 35 were arrested on state and federal charges and thousands of dollars confiscated.


I got on the phone, dictated my story and preserved the roll of film for later use.


The alert game warden saw one guy run from the building, across the street into the water. He found the gambler up to his neck shivering in the ice cold water. He was afraid to get out but finally for sheer self-preservation, got out and was wrapped in a blanket.


It made a nice picture for the paper on Monday. He was the brother of an All-America basketball player and known for his gambling prowess.


On another occasion I accompanied the sheriff taking a sentenced murderer to the penitentiary. That’s another story and maybe on another occasion.


Now I hope the Frederick mayor uses some gumption, ignores any nationwide search and give the city a nice Christmas present – remove “acting” with Eagles insignia for Chief Ledwell.


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