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Public speaks in police reaccreditation bid

December 14, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - For about 45 minutes Monday, people either applauded or complained about Hagerstown Police Department officers as part of the public's only chance for input in the department's reaccreditation bid.

Ronald Underwood, Peter Pastoor and Price Robinson, assessors from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc., conducted a public information session Monday at City Hall. Underwood said the session is crucial to give residents a chance to speak on police issues, and to give assessors additional ideas of what to investigate during their time in the city and what to present to Chief Arthur Smith.

"This is the one chance to see another side of police we might not see going through files and riding with officers in cars," Underwood said.

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"We don't just take them (comments) for granted," Pastoor said.

Among several people who spoke in favor of the department were representatives from social services and juvenile services departments and North Hagerstown High School.

Carolyn Brooks, program coordinator of CSAFE, said police collaboration through the program, started in 1997, has helped "police gained the trust of people in the community," and the addition of surveillance cameras in areas of the city have been a major crime deterrent.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson said police have made strides in recent years in aggressive pursuit of drug dealers and violent criminals. He said the department's push to establish a violent crime prosecutor has paid dividends in the courtroom.

Others were not as complimentary.

Hagerstown resident James Devine, who alleged abusive officers shattered both his wrists in separate incidents in 1984 and about three years ago, said he believes it is unfair that people have to file brutality complaints against an officer with someone from the same department.

Boonsboro resident Karen Shifler, mother of two former officers on the force, alleged several cases of inappropriate conduct among officers in the department, including threats of violence and falsification of documents. She also contended that a specific policy on employee termination is not written "in black and white."

"I'd like to see it better spelled out," she said.

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