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Police chief proposes deputizing his officers

January 21, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Hancock Police Chief Donald Gossage said last week he plans to meet with Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades to see if he'd be interested in a proposal that would give Hancock's officers law enforcement jurisdiction outside the town limits.

Town officers already assist the sheriff's department on calls outside the town, but they cannot make arrests, officials said. In order to have that authority, Mades would have to designate the town's officers as deputies.

Mades has the power under the Annotated Code of Maryland to appoint officers from other jurisdictions as deputies.

"When you get on a scene, you want to be able to do something when you have to do something," Gossage said.

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Gossage said the Smithsburg Police Department is also interested in such talks with Mades. Hancock has four officers and Smithsburg has three.

Smithsburg Police Chief Michael Potter could not be reached for comment Monday night.

Mades said he would only give the officers the deputy designation if he received approval from the Hancock and Smithsburg town councils. He said he has never deputized a town officer since he became sheriff in 1986, but members of the Narcotics Task Force are given the deputy designation so they can work throughout the county and make drug arrests.

Hancock Mayor Daniel A. Murphy and Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said Monday they were open to discussions about the proposal.

"It's not something that we wouldn't look at," Myers said.

"If it's something that makes our guys better or the relationship stronger, then I don't see anything wrong in talking about it," Murphy said.

Murphy said Hancock officers already assist the sheriff's department on calls, but usually a deputy makes the arrest and does the paperwork.

"It's not like we haven't been helping them and they haven't been helping us," he said.

Mades said Friday he has not had formal talks with the Hancock or Smithsburg police departments and that he wanted to hear more about whether such a program would be to the sheriff's department's advantage.

The officers would remain employees of the towns, but Mades would be able to assign duties to the town officers in their municipalities, under the Annotated Code. The county would be responsible for liability insurance while the officers were carrying out their official duties.

Gossage said if Mades were to deputize the officers, an agreement would need to be worked out so the towns' officers weren't handling only sheriff's department calls.

He said the deputy designation would clear up confusion over jurisdiction. A number of incidents have occurred near Hancock's borders, but those cases have been dismissed in court because of concerns over which law enforcement agency had jurisdiction, Gossage said.

"It would help us out, and at the same time, help the sheriff's department out," Gossage said.

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