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September 4, 2014

Merge Police with the Sheriff’s Department

Harry M. Covert

In the middle of the political season obvious debates rage among battlers for the new county executive and council. As usual, the focus is on money and immigration matters. Tax-n-spend and free schools for illegal personages are quietly being lost in the discussion.


There should be some other discussion on reducing public spending. Frederick City’s latest police chief with less than three years in office is taking early retirement in a few weeks for whatever reason.


His predecessor took a powder – it may be said – to become the generalissimo of the U. S. Capital Police, which guards the Capitol, Congress members and all such environs. He’s bedecked with four stars sparkling on his black uniform with golden braid – scrambled eggs – on his cap signifying power.


This is the trend nowadays for police chiefs across the land. They have more ribbons and military-style insignia than the nation’s military leaders.


That’s okay, looks good, official and authoritarian to go along with all of the heavy-duty equipment that so many critics find distasteful. When the day comes, and it probably will sooner rather than later, the military equipment will benefit local communities.


All of this palaver to suggest it is time now to seriously consider merging municipal Police Department with the county-wide Sheriff’s Office. Others have proposed this before my taking on the issue. Why should the city come up with another $100,000 a year chief with various and wonderful retirement perks?


Why should individual towns and cities in Frederick County also keep the expensive operation of their own police departments? Massive funding is required. When chatter gets going about local safety, money talk goes by the wayside – and quickly.


Local law enforcement agencies make the natives feel separate but equal. In reality small town budgets can help taxpayers. Combining police and all public safety groups is certainly worth considering.


After careers in public service, retirement features are pretty good for those who have served their time. They can go off into other professional ventures. A nice perk.


Discussion on a serious level should begin to have the Sheriff’s Office absorb all other police agencies in Frederick County. The current top dogs could become precinct commanders – let them have one-star – answering to the sheriff. Certainly, the sheriff’s duties would be considerably increased. The office already works in tandem with the neighboring comrades. Exchanging police uniforms to “sheriff’s brown” would be a money saver.


If Maryland State Police can operate in every jurisdiction effectively, why not a combined Sheriff’s Office? Community policing could be more effective as everyone would be on the same page. The elected sheriff would, in actuality, be a commissioner of public safety.


Naturally to institute this proposed merger will put a lot of noses out of shape. The gaudy uniforms can make every “precinct” commander starry-eyed. All deputies can keep enhancing uniforms with military-style ribbons for meritorious service and all that comes with it. It would be fun to see all “flag ranked” deputies with pearl-handled, white steel Glocks strutting around.


All right, the above may be a bit much. Fights among local politicos would generate some good stories. Who is going to be first among equals? This would be worth watching and make campaign coverage more entertaining.


The trend throughout the land in recent years has been to decorate law enforcement uniforms similar to the federal Joint Chiefs of Staff. The nation does not currently have any five-star generals or admirals. It does seem questionable here for a police chief or sheriff wearing five stars as we sometimes see. Are any of these in the same league as George C. Marshall? He could have had six stars but didn’t want to be called “Marshal Marshall.”


Life in Frederick City and County is terrific. But, this is not Mayberry and guardians of the public aren’t just allowed one bullet in their pockets.


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