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Paying the ultimate price for slowing the drug trade

November 01, 2000

Paying the ultimate price for slowing the drug trade



Except for those who live in certain neighborhoods in Washington County, the only visible sign of a thriving drug trade is the lists of suspects and convicted offenders that appear periodically in The Herald-Mail. But producing those lists is more than a matter of typing them up. Suspects must be identified and observed while engaging in criminal behavior, then arrested in a way that protects their rights.

Those involved in the drug trade have no such restraints. If the situation doesn't feel right, no code of conduct prevents them from doing harm to anyone they perceive as a threat.

That's what happened to Maryland State Police Trooper First Class Edward Toatley on Monday night, as he worked undercover in Washington, D.C. As Toatley sat in a car with a drug suspect, the suspect allegedly shot him, then ran from the vehicle. The trooper died shortly after 11 p.m. at the Washington Hospital Center.

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The death of the 16-year veteran and father of three children hit local law enforcement officers hard because Toatley had worked here on a number of drug sting operations. Ironically, two weeks ago he participated in a fund-raiser for the Maryland chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors, which aids families of troopers killed on the job.

When such a thing happens, the words of a newspaper editorial are barely adequate. Next week and in the months from now, when the words written here have been forgotten, Tetley's wife and three children will still be dealing with this terrible and sudden void in their lives.

All the rest of us can do is to support the work of groups like Hagerstown's Neighborhoods First, which is pushing for tougher sentences for drug offenders and more careful screening by local landlords of would-be tenants.

Because of the sacrifice of Toatley and others, there isn't a drug dealer on every corner. In his memory, law-abiding citizens should pledge their support to a campaign to make such perpetrators as rare as good people like TFC Toatley seem to be now.

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