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Washington County law enforcement representatives testify in Annapolis

Bill would give sheriff authority to appoint special sheriff's deputies

March 14, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore
File photo

ANNAPOLIS — Top law enforcement officials from Washington County testified Thursday in support of a bill that would give authority to the sheriff to appoint municipal law enforcement officers as special sheriff’s deputies.

Thursday’s hearing for House Bill 559 was at the House Environmental Matters Committee and was attended by Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore, Hagerstown Police Chief Mark Holtzman and Smithsburg Police Chief George Knight.

A senate committee had a similar hearing for a cross-filed version of the bill in February.

Local law enforcement say that municipal boundaries in Washington County are fragmented and it is very difficult for law enforcement officers to know whether they are in the county or a municipality as they patrol.

This, on occasion, has led to the agencies losing cases in court, the officers have said.

“Even in today’s society, with the computer-aided dispatch, it is extremely difficult for us on the street to be able to determine whether a location is in the city or county,” Mullendore said at Thursday’s hearing.

He gave the example of Dual Highway where an officer could pass in and out of jurisdictions as many as 10 different times within a few miles.

The bill, Mullendore said, would give “limited law enforcement” authority to municipal police officers so they will be able to respond to “issues immediately around their jurisdictional boundaries.”

According to an analysis of the bill by the state’s Department of Legislative Services, municipal law enforcement officers will have rights as special sheriff’s deputies in situations including a traffic incident threatening human life or an emergency involving possible loss of life, injury or property damage.

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