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State Police to request more cops for county

November 20, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A Maryland State Police commander said Tuesday he will request more troopers for the Hagerstown barrack, which has lost nine troopers in the last four years.

But he downplayed the significance of the drop, saying more local crimes are now handled by specialty units out of Pikesville.

"We have redirected our resources, but that should not be interpreted as we're not going to concentrate on enforcement," said Maj. Vernon Herron, western region commander.

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Six years ago, the state police began forming units at its headquarters in Pikesville to handle specific offenses such as homicides, handgun violations and computer crimes, he said.

For example, homicides that previously would have been investigated by troopers stationed at the local barrack are now handled by the specialty unit, he said.

Troopers were tapped from all jurisdictions to form the specialty units and barracks across the state saw decreases due to transfers and promotions, he said.

Staffing at the Hagerstown barrack dropped from 30 road troopers in April 1998 to 21 road troopers in September 2002, according to organizational charts obtained by The Herald-Mail.

But Herron, who oversees barracks in the state's four westernmost counties, said he hopes to boost Hagerstown's numbers by asking that some of the cadets set to graduate soon from the state's training academy be assigned here. He had not decided how many new troopers he will request.

In the past year, Herron said he was able to get three troopers replaced in Allegany County.

The Washington County Commissioners have said they are concerned that state police protection in the county is shrinking.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department said it has handled an increasing number of calls in the last few years.

State police cover the interstates and U.S. routes in the county. The sheriff's department patrols county roads.

Herron was directed to meet with Sheriff Charles F. Mades and the commissioners to discuss staffing issues.

Last week, state police spokesman Sgt. Thornnie Rouse erroneously said the Hagerstown barrack has been staffed with 40 troopers since at least 1997.

When later asked about the organizational charts, he acknowledged the drop in staffing and said he didn't mean to mislead the public.

Rouse said he based his statement on information provided to him, which included corporals who are on the road part time.

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