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Police chief taking job with federal government

May 10, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Hagerstown Police Chief Dale Jones resigned Monday as the city's top law enforcement officer to take a federal government job in Silver Spring, Md.

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"Last November I sent out my first resume since I came here 5 1/2 years ago," Jones said Monday afternoon. "The job just looked so interesting."

Jones begins his job with the U.S. Commerce Department on May 24 . He will head up the law enforcement branch within the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"This a great career move," Jones said.

He would not reveal what his new job pays, saying only "a lot more than I'm making now."

As police chief, Jones makes $71,510 annually, according to the Hagerstown human resources department.

Jones, 42, handed in his resignation Monday morning.

"I've received good support from the city," Jones said. "When the money was there, we got what we needed."

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As to whether there was any interference from city officials with his job, Jones said no more than usual in that type of job.

"People have interests in seeing things done," Jones said. "The city fathers have been clear in their expectations such as more downtown policing ... I wouldn't describe it as interference, just the normal ebb and flow trying to meet the needs of the community."

Recently Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II called on the police to have "zero tolerance" for all crime.

"I think he was trying to say he wanted us to try everything possible," Jones said. "Zero tolerance is possible. It ties into some sound principles."

Jones said he is proud of his accomplishments in the past 5 1/2 years. He supported the group effort in the current contract, which improves benefits for officers and reduces the number of years on the job needed for retirement from 30 to 25.

"We had 112 officers when I started here and there are 122 now," Jones said. But more importantly, those officers are more efficiently deployed than before, he said.

A high of 15 officers were added during his tenure, with the positions funded either entirely or partly by grants. Eleven officers are still working under those grants, Jones said.

"Many of those grants were short term but we have gotten matching funds from the city - both former Mayor Steve Sager and Bruchey have supported this," Jones said.

A major disappointment for Jones is the still-flourishing drug trade in the community. "The level of this worries me ... lots of customers and lots of out-of-town dealers to sell to them," he said.

During Jones' tenure, the street crime unit was created to attack drug trafficking. Also up and running is the HotSpot initiative to target the causes of drug use in the Jonathan Street area.

More police are on the streets now and that was a goal for Jones when he came to Hagerstown in January 1994 from Warren, Pa., where he had been director of public safety.

New equipment has been added over the years and a new computer system is about to go online, Jones said.

"We've got better training now and better-equipped officers," Jones said.

Jones, his wife and their three children will continue to call Hagerstown home as Jones commutes to the Silver Spring headquarters of NOAA.

From there he will oversee the enforcement efforts of five regional offices in Massachusetts, Florida, California, Washington state and Alaska.

Overseeing a staff of 100 special agents, 35 uniformed officers and 31 technical/support staff, Jones will deal with federal laws governing endangered marine species, drift net laws, commercial and sport fishing vessels in terms of what species they can catch, where and when they can fish.

"I've got a lot to learn about fisheries law but I know about law enforcement and that's what I'll be involved in mostly," Jones said.

"I like Dale Jones. He's one of the nicest, most level-headed, articulate people I've met. He offered a lot to the police department," Bruchey said.

Bruchey said his calls for a zero tolerance policing policy did not create tension between him and Jones, but that the situation was frustrating.

"We need to be more aggressive and I think he was headed that way," Bruchey said.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said Jones "had a real positive impact" on the city and the police department.

"He brought a very strong approach to his work and police administration. And a strong commitment to the city," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said he was not ready to say who would act as interim chief of police after Jones leaves.

Zimmerman said he will meet with the mayor and City Council to determine how a new chief will be chosen.

Bruchey said if it were up to him he would promote someone from within the police department.

"But as the mayor I have no power in that," Bruchey said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Jones improved morale in the police department.

"Wherever he's going, it's their gain and our loss," said Councilman J. Wallace McClure.

Council members Alfred W. Boyer, Susan Saum-Wicklein and William M. Breichner could not be reached for comment Monday.

Staff Writer Dan Kulin contributed to this article.

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