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Support grows for Smithsburg chief

August 19, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - Anger among town residents over Police Chief Tommy Bowers' dismissal continued to build Monday, and several people said a protest was scheduled for today outside Town Hall.

North Main Street resident Jacob Keller said residents would meet at 9 a.m. in front of Town Hall to picket and would continue the protest "every day until we get him back in that car."

Bowers was dismissed from the post last week, setting off a storm of protest from residents.

"We want our police chief back. He's the best thing that's ever happened to this town and we're not going to lose him," Keller said.

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Several residents displayed signs and balloons in front of their homes as a form of protest. Sherry Owen, former chairman of the town's Citizens Police Advisory Committee, said she is trying to coordinate several groups of Bowers' supporters for maximum impact.

Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers and the Town Council members signed Bowers' termination letter. Owen, who said personal disputes between the mayor and Bowers led to his dismissal, blasted the council for not standing up for the chief.

Owen said she would like to amend the Town Charter to take power away from the mayor. She said she envisions a board of citizens and professionals that would make personnel decisions regarding the police department.

Town officials have been advised by town attorney Robert E. Kuczynski not to discuss the reasons for Bowers' dismissal because it is a personnel matter, Myers said in a telephone interview Monday night.

Myers said that she hadn't heard that a protest was planned.

She said she had no problem with people voicing their opinion, but hoped that picketers wouldn't intimidate people who were coming to do police, town or historical society business.

"This is an area of public business. I certainly hope it's not going to interfere with people coming in and out of town hall," Myers said.

Bowers expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support he has received over the last week.

"I never expected it. I feel humbled. I never realized I made that kind of impact," he said.

Bowers said he has received several job offers but has decided to hold off on making any decisions for at least another week. Although he said he would love to return as chief, he added that he was not sure whether he could work under Myers.

"Part of the condition is that I'd run the police department. That's what the police chief is supposed to do," he said. "She has humiliated me so much I don't know if I could do it."

Bowers said his relationship with Myers began to deteriorate last fall when the mayor began spending more time at Town Hall. He said she placed what he felt were unworkable mandates on him.

For instance, he said she demanded that he meet with Officer Shawn Tyler three times a week and with her twice a week. Myers also requested that he post a schedule each month, Bowers said. He said he refused to do so for August because the meeting requests proved unrealistic.

Tim Gaines, a former council member who was serving when Bowers was hired, said he is disappointed by the dismissal. He said he likes both Bowers and Myers and wishes they could have resolved their differences.

Gaines gave Bowers high marks for going after drug dealers in town, and said he and other residents believe problems could have been resolved.

"We don't really understand why they can't have been worked out," he said.

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