Online chat with Rich Poffenberger

October 29, 2006

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, The Herald-Mail hosted an online chat with Cpl. Rich Poffenberger of the Maryland State Police, who is a candidate to replace retiring Charles Mades as Washington County sheriff.

An edited version of that chat is below.

To participate in future chats, go to www.herald-mail.comand click on "chat." You also may send questions in advance to

Visitor: If elected, what would you do to ensure that the constitutional grantees of innocence until proven guilty is carried out within the county jail? I am not some liberal seeking release of all un-convicted inmates, but I do believe that if a person is incarcerated they should be treated as an innocent person within the county jail. this would include being able to hold their children and explaining their side of every story. I do understand that security is an issue but believe by far that the constitution supercedes any security issue.


Poffenberger: Everybody is to be treated equally. The detention center serves as a holding cell for numerous persons awaiting trial; however, these people have to abide by the same rules as the people who are already incarcerated, but as stated before, will not be treated any differently.

As far as security issues and visitors, I need to see the operation from the inside, listen to the detention deputies' concerns, and come up with the best plan that considers the safety of the deputies.

Katherine: Are you concerned about complaints against the Washington County courts, Child Protective Services and the overall process of bringing child abusers to justice specifically with sexual abuse? If so what part would you play to keep our children safe?

Poffenberger: It has to be known that any form of abuse to children will not be tolerated. Any complaints outside the normal scope of law enforcement should be looked into expeditiously by directors of those organizations.

Additionally, any report of any crime violating a child needs to be a priority as far as investigation.

Kelly: I was wondering with school security being a big issue if anyone has thought of the safety of our children in day-care facilities. Do they have rules and regulations for locking their doors and keeping our children safe? Thanks for doing a great job!

Poffenberger: Obviously, the safety of our children is a big issue at this time. However, this is not a black and white subject where we can sit down and give you a definite answer. Any children, including the ones in day-care facilities, are of concern to us. Steps can be taken in the form of education concerning areas where people are shown weaknesss in the system and can help us to prevent tragedies. No current rules exist that I know of in the private sector. However, common sense should be a part of everyday life, and should prevail when making judgments about our children.

Debbie: What experience do you have managing a budget the size of the sheriff department's and with applying for grants, which are commonly used to offset the budget?

Poffenberger: Because of my current job function, I do not have that sort of responsibility. The commanders of each division decide what they need for the upcoming fiscal year, which includes salaries, maintenance, and any other projected needs. Once put together, this is approved and forwarded to the county commissioners for final approval. The majority of this money is already spoken for because of the aforementioned items. As far as grants go, I'm all for applying for any grant that is available. Additional funding for necessary equipment can also be funded through the military and the national guard.

What disturbs me is that deputies have approached me and stated that they've requested training to write grants; however, they've been denied. If a department is looking toward the future, then why aren't they utilizing every tool available?

Sam: The sheriff has to manage a large number of deputies, correctional officers, and other staff. What type of management experience do you have that would qualify you to be sheriff?

Poffenberger: Again, because of my job function with the state police, I'm not in the position to supervise this many people at one time. However, I am a supervisor and have the following credentials: 1) I am the Western Region K-9 supervisor for the Maryland State Police; 2) I am the barrack collision reconstruction supervisor responsible for reviewing and forwarding all fatal collisions. Part of this entails the documentation of high-fatality and high-collision routes, and finding solutions as to why they are occuring on these roads. 3) I have rewritten all of the state police K-9 forms and reconstruction forms ... These forms are now used statewide.

I'm familiar with staffing, evaluations, and numerous other administrative functions, and am prepared to learn what I do not know.

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