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Smithsburg crowd wants police chief back

August 20, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - Chanting "We want Tommy back" at passing cars, outraged supporters of former police chief Tommy Bowers turned up the heat on town officials Tuesday.

More than a dozen residents held signs and balloons outside Town Hall and demanded that Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers and the Town Council reinstate Bowers, who was relieved of his duties on Aug. 12. Passing motorists frequently beeped their horns in support.

Throughout town on Tuesday, people displayed balloons in front of their homes as a show of support. At the rally, many held signs reading: "Help Us Support Tommy" and "Yes! We Do Pay Your Salary."

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Town resident Charlene Burgess criticized the council for going along with Bowers' dismissal.

"The council is puppets," she said.

North Main Street resident Jacob Keller quickly chimed in: "There's going to be a change in puppets."

Council members contacted Tuesday declined to comment, but the mayor and council issued a three-page statement explaining the dismissal. The statement said town officials had declined to elaborate in deference to Bowers' family but now felt compelled to do so.

The statement listed several specific tasks the officials said Bowers failed to complete on time, from police reports to investigating complaints against the department. The statement also denied that his firing had anything to do with "unpopular" arrests.

"The Mayor and Council discussed and addressed their concerns with Mr. Bowers and despite his assurances that he would correct the deficiencies, he failed to do so," the statement read.

Support for Bowers, however, was strong at Tuesday's rally.

Edgemont Road resident David Stoneberger, 41, who grew up in Smithsburg, said Bowers charged him with disorderly conduct after an incident at a bar two years ago. But he said he was holding a sign on Tuesday because Bowers was fair and professional.

"We couldn't get a better cop than him in here," Stoneberger said.

Bowers, who could hear the protesters from his living room at 22 West Water St., said he appreciated the support but regretted the turmoil.

"I hate to see the town like this," he said.

Bowers' dismissal continues to reverberate across town. Albert G. Deal, a member of the Smithsburg Park Commission who helped renovate a park outside town, resigned from his post in letter dated Aug. 16.

In an interview Tuesday night, he said his 6-year-old daughter wants to be a police officer because of Bowers.

"I thought it was the best way to support Chief Bowers. I was really upset at the way he was dismissed," he said.

Several residents have called the Herald-Mail Co. to voice support for the former chief.

Water Street resident Tom Law said he was unaware of the demonstration but joined in when he saw protesters outside Town Hall. He said he also signed a petition demanding Bowers' reinstatement.

"He's a very professional kind of guy - just the kind you need. I don't know what's going on internally, but professionally, you can't do better," Law said.

Bonnie Smith, who lives on Amanda Drive, said her 12-year-old son wanted to fulfill his school community service hours with Bowers and that her 9-year-old daughter followed him around.

"The youngest is like his little shadow - his junior detective," she said. "I just think the town has a right to know why."

On Monday, Sherry Owen, former chairman of the Citizens Police Advisory Committee, pilloried the five council members.

"A den of snakes has more backbone than our Town Council," she said.

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