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Officials say state has cut number of troopers

November 14, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Washington County Commissioners claim the number of troopers at the Maryland State Police barrack in Hagerstown has dropped over the past year, putting the burden on the Washington County Sheriff's Department to respond to more calls and on the county to hire more deputies.

A Maryland State Police spokesman, however, recently said the staffing level at the barrack has remained about the same over at least the last six years, and said he doesn't know what the County Commissioners are complaining about.

Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades said last week that the sheriff's department has had an increase in calls over the last few years as a result of several different factors, but he would not say whether he thought the number of troopers assigned to the Hagerstown barrack was down.

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Sgt. Thornnie Rouse, at state police headquarters in Pikesville, Md., said the Hagerstown barrack has remained staffed at about 40 troopers a year since 1997. A sergeant, corporal and four troopers are on duty per shift, which is about the average throughout the state, he said.

Officials at the Hagerstown barrack referred all calls to Rouse.

"I don't know what their real complaint is, but those are our numbers here," Rouse said of the commissioners. "It's been pretty consistent."

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioners William J. Wivell and Bert L. Iseminger said over the last two weeks they think the Hagerstown barrack has less than 40 troopers, claiming some were transferred to other barracks while some vacancies have not been filled.

"There have been comments over the last several months that our deputies had to respond to some increased calls that possibly should have been the state police's," Snook said.

Wivell said he wrote a letter to Maryland State Police Superintendent David Mitchell asking for more troopers at the Hagerstown barrack, but Mitchell responded that the barrack was adequately staffed.

"This is just another example of the state putting the burden on the local level," Wivell said.

While the state police say the number of troopers hasn't dropped in Hagerstown, the number of calls the sheriff's department received over the last few years has increased. At the same time, the local state police barrack's calls have gone down.

The sheriff's department received 33,213 calls for service in 1997, 33,756 calls in 1998, 40,219 calls in 1999, 36,188 in 2000 and 37,710 in 2001.

The Hagerstown state police barrack received 15,993 calls in 1997, 18,132 calls in 1998, 18,751 calls in 1999, 16,401 calls in 2000 and 15,443 calls in 2001, according to Rouse.

"The numbers are there, nobody can dispute it," Mades said. "Somebody's probably going to have to sit down and say, 'Is there a need for more troopers here?'"

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