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Police chief considers taking leave of absence

September 18, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City Police Chief Arthur Smith said Thursday he had been considering a leave of absence from his post to take a consulting job with the U.S. State Department, although the circumstances for that position now seem "iffy."

Unconfirmed rumors had circulated earlier this year that Smith might be planning on taking another job outside the city. Smith had denied he planned on moving away from the city anytime soon.

On Thursday, Smith said, "If you've heard anything, that's what that was about," referring to the consulting position.

Smith has been credited with a decrease in drug-related crime in Hagerstown. Open-air drug deals have sharply decreased, and search warrants are more steadily executed in town to root out drug dealing.

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Smith also was instrumental in bringing crime-fighting camera systems to the Jonathan Street corridor last year, and within the past week a new downtown camera system has been turned on.

Smith declined to say what the consulting position was, citing confidentiality, describing the possible job only as "overseas" work in an area of "difficulty," and he had requested to take a leave of absence from city administrators.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said he has talked with Smith on several occasions about the position over the last month.

"We've had general discussions on that," Zimmerman said, but those discussions did not include specific dates or the amount of time the chief would be gone.

"He's kept me apprised on this," Zimmerman said. "We certainly wouldn't hold him back if he chooses that course, but we hold Chief Smith in an extremely high regard. ... He would be sorely missed."

Zimmerman said from all indications he's had, Smith would return at the end of his leave of absence, if he were to take it.

In the interim if Smith were to leave, Zimmerman said the city would appoint an acting chief.

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