Police chief gaining council support


SMITHSBURG - After three months on the job, Smithsburg Police Chief Ralf Berger has earned the praise of four council members.

During Tuesday's Town meeting, Councilman Jerome Martin told the public he was pleased to see Berger and Officer Michael Neuland out patrolling the town on bicycles.

He said the bicycle patrol increased police visibility and was a deterrent to crime.

"I hope to see you out on foot" as well, he said.

Councilman Charlie Slick said the town has received increased revenue from parking tickets and fingerprinting in recent months as a result of Berger's diligence.

Councilwoman Elizabeth "Peachy" Mann said she has heard positive comments from the public about Berger's performance.

Berger was hired in March pending the results of a background check, which was recently completed by the Washington County Sheriff's Department and submitted to town attorney Charles Wagaman, town officials said.


Mayor Tommy Bowers has said the background check will not be released to the public and the Town Council will be given access to it but not copies.

Berger was found guilty of 23 administrative charges while employed with the Frederick County Sheriff's Office. He was not charged criminally.

During Tuesday's meeting Smithsburg Town Council approved a set of rules and regulations that Berger had compiled for the Smithsburg Police Department, which has been following those of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Councilman Michael Rohrer and former Councilman David Williams said the regulations had been requested about three years ago and Berger completed them in three months.

During his report to council, Berger said the police department received 120 calls for the month of May, made arrests for simple assault, possession of drugs, theft over $300 and theft under $300.

Town police wrote 60 parking citations and issued 28 verbal warnings for seat belt violations and four warnings for traffic stops.

Since taking his position as police chief, Berger also initiated the purchase of two laptop computers and related hardware.

Berger said the laptops enable officers to write reports in their patrol cars and download them when they return to the station.

"This will allow us to keep better track of obligated and unobligated time. Also this will greatly increase the time on the street, as most calls can be computer-completed on the street," Berger said in his request to council.

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