Smithsburg's new police chief making changes

December 17, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

SMITHSBURG - With a new cruiser on the way and updated uniforms and insignia in the works, the Smithsburg Police Department might soon be looking a little different. Its new chief, Charles R. Stanford, hopes it will perform differently, too.

"This department needs to be more professional, and that's what I hope to change," said Stanford, who was sworn in Dec. 5. "My goal is to make this the best small-town police department in the area."

Stanford, a former Maryland State Police trooper, is the town's fifth police chief in 10 years and will oversee the three officers who work for the town.

Stanford said he feels confident taking on the challenge despite a controversial appointment process in which town councilman Jerome Martin argued other applicants weren't given a fair shot.


Two council members voted against Stanford's confirmation, Martin said.

"Hopefully my actions will show them that I am capable of doing the job," Stanford said.

High on his list of priorities is seeing the department more involved in the community and officers more respectful to the citizens, he said. He also plans to update the department's equipment, arrange additional training and request funding to hire a fourth officer.

Currently, there are periods of time when only one officer is on duty, which limits the department's flexibility to patrol the town on foot, Stanford said.

For more than a month after former police chief Michael Potter resigned in late October, the department was stretched even thinner as officers took on the chief's duties, Officer Charles Johnson said.

"It's nice to have one person to answer to now," Johnson said.

In his first week as chief, Stanford was quick to take control, Johnson said. Nevertheless, Stanford said there was still catching up to do. Police have not been regularly directing traffic at the congested entrance to the town's middle and high schools since Potter resigned, he said. Stanford said he was working on a schedule that will place an officer at the intersection at the start and end of each school day.

Stanford said he also wants to investigate complaints of drug activity within the town. Smithsburg has a partnership with Boonsboro's police department, and Stanford said he plans to utilize Boonsboro's K-9 dog and get the town's officers trained for drug investigations.

It will be a return to familiar territory for Stanford, who spent a portion of his 17-year state police career on a K-9 unit. Back then, he often worked drug interdiction on Interstate 81, Stanford said. Often, drugs are transported by commercial vehicle drivers looking to make money on the side, he said.

Stanford was part of a group that seized about $700,000 in cash from a tractor-trailer, he said.

In Smithsburg, the problems come on a somewhat smaller scale.

"This is a night-and-day difference," Stanford said. "It took a little adjusting."

Stanford moved to Smithsburg when he was 5, graduated from the town's high school and moved away only briefly while he was in the Navy. He said serving as chief in what he considers his hometown has been his dream.

"I've always had good memories here," he said.

After retiring from the state police in 2004, Stanford spent about six months as a patrol officer for Smithsburg Police in 2005. More recently, he served as patrol supervisor for Boonsboro Police.

Now back in Smithsburg, Stanford has redesigned the department's insignia to incorporate the town crest and the high school's leopard mascot, and he plans to have the town's new Chevrolet Impala cruiser printed with lines of purple and gold, the school's colors. The old police insignia, which features a deer head, "really doesn't have anything to do with the town," Stanford said.

So far, he's found small-town policing has advantages over state police work, he said.

"You get a chance to know the town, whereas as a trooper, you didn't get a chance to get to know anybody, really," he said.

Meet the chief

Name: Smithsburg Police Chief Charles R. Stanford

Age: 44

Home: Smithsburg

Former jobs: Navy jet engine mechanic, Maryland State Police trooper, high school resource officer, Smithsburg Police officer, Boonsboro Police patrol supervisor

Why he always wanted to be a police officer: One of his strongest childhood memories is of the officer who took the report when someone broke into his house when he was 8 or 9. "I thought he just emanated respect," Stanford said.

Most memorable police assignment: Spending a week on the Beltway sniper task force guarding schools and driving around looking for suspect vehicles

Family: A wife, two grown daughters and a 17-year-old stepson

Hobbies: Organizing softball and basketball teams as sports ministry director for Ringgold Church of Christ, where he also is a head trustee

Favorite town tradition: Smithsburg High football games. Stanford, a 1980 Smithsburg High graduate, played football his freshman and sophomore years and has coached junior varsity softball.

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