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July 19, 2013

Continuing Sheriff Controversy

Roy Meachum

Sheriff Chuck Jenkins’ name was back on The Frederick News-Post front page this week, several times. He has mostly himself to blame. Treating the main source of news in the community like dirt is not a sane policy for any politician.


The sheriff’s office released its report of the January tragedy Monday only to the Associated Press more than six months after the incident that caused the death of Robert Ethan Saylor, who had Down syndrome. It required another day to reach the paper, despite its official requests for information. Why? It looks like an act of arrogance and spite.


Mr. Saylor died while he was in custody of off-duty deputies acting as security guards for Westview shopping mall. The act continues to spark rhubarbs all over the nation. These were stirred up initially by organizations formed by parents and friends of those similarly afflicted. But the public got into the act big time. Pages and pages of comments accompanied News-Post articles, all written by readers.


Swearing in, Chuck Jenkins was bothered by employees taking guards’ positions, particularly at Westview – wearing uniforms and driving official cars. He took them away. On the other hand, my weekly WFMD930AM radio chores require me to visit Regal cinema complex weekly. I’ve not noticed the official cars disappearing and the uniforms have not diminished.


Furthermore, while Mr. Saylor’s death occurred on January 12, 2013, my column appeared more than a month later, containing the following quote:


“In one case, $600,000 to a family that a deputy shot a beloved dog; he ‘says’ his past experience made him wary. In another instance, two sheriff deputies let go 18 bullets in a suspect’s direction; they ‘say’ he pointed a shotgun at them. Several hundred thousand to defend a lawsuit by a Honduran lady eating a sandwich when she was arrested; the judge’s kicking was celebrated by xenophobic Frederick.


“By the way the lady was never deported.”


On February 26, 2013 (“Chuck Jenkins’ More-Than-Rough Patch”), I attributed the arrogance to the power to call immigration on any subject. It turns out I was wrong. The arrogance stems from the sheriff.


Long thought invulnerable to political challenging; after all, Frederick County votes Republican and he was the local GOP chairman, Sheriff Jenkins might suffer a come-uppance in 2014. There is time to mount a successful campaign against him. For his loss, he might blame anyone or anything, but he’ll be alone as the single reason – his arrogance.


In person, Chuck is a very likeable human being. His name is on my cell phone’s speed directory, but that was before he proved so bull-headed. More than a month after my column appeared, at a Homewood Kiwanis breakfast, he cut me short. As I wrote, in February I blamed the deputies’ power to deport; now I am saying he’s alone in the fault.


For years he was a detective in the department, two terms as sheriff might combine to earn him retirement; he should take it.


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