Sher­iff con­sid­er­ing re­mov­ing of­fi­cers from schools

Move comes af­ter of­fi­cials passed county bud­get with de­layed funds for new of­fi­cers

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

De­spite be­ing able to make their quick turn­around of ap­prov­ing the bud­get by May 3, Charles County Sher­iff Troy Berry (D) still feels the board of com­mis­sion­ers had at least one stone left to be turned over.

The sher­iff’s of­fice has been put in a “dif­fi­cult” sit­u­a­tion, Berry said, and be­cause of that the depart­ment may have to con­sider re­mov­ing school re­source of­fi­cers from around the county.

“It’s a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. Do I leave the of­fi­cers in the schools, or do I pull some of them out of the schools to

ad­dress the calls in the com­mu­nity,” Berry said. “That’s where we are.”

Berry said he would have con­tin­ued dis­cus­sions with the board of com­mis­sion­ers and the board of ed­u­ca­tion to try to come up with so­lu­tions.

With the bud­get be­ing ap­proved on Tues­day, Berry said, there was no ma­trix or “strate­gic plan” set up to “re­spon­si­bly” grow the sher­iff’s of­fice.

Berry said the county gov­ern­ment granted the agency 100 per­cent fund­ing for five sworn of­fi­cers this fis­cal year ini­tially on Oct. 1, but pushed it back to Jan. 1 to save costs and hire five new emer­gency ser­vices of­fi­cials. That de­ci­sion was made with­out con­sult­ing the sher­iff’s of­fice, he said.

“The sher­iff’s of­fice is com­mit­ted to work­ing with all lead­er­ship in the county gov­ern­ment, but we can­not have these lapses in com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” Berry said.

The cit­i­zens will pay “now or later” for the county’s lack of im­me­di­ate in­vest­ment in staffing and devel­op­ing a plan for the sher­iff’s of­fice.

David Ei­choltz, the di­rec­tor of fis­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices for the county gov­ern­ment, said de­lay­ing the hires un­til Jan. 1 made sense be­cause the sher­iff’s polic­ing classes, ac­cord­ing to Ei­choltz, are in Jan­uary and June.

“From my un­der­stand­ing, the sher­iff be­gins a po­lice acad­emy class July 1 and they be­gin a po­lice acad­emy class Jan. 1. Fund­ing them for of­fi­cers Oct. 1 doesn’t do them any good,” Ei­choltz said. “They’re not los­ing five of­fi­cers they’re just hir­ing them at a later date.”

Both Ei­choltz and County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Michael Malli­noff said they had not spo­ken with Berry di­rectly about the de­lay in hires, but still felt it was a “sound rec­om­men­da­tion,” Ei­choltz said.

Ei­choltz said de­lay­ing the classes also al­lows the county to see where the sher­iff’s of­fice stands with the COPS com­mu­nity polic­ing grants. But Berry said there is no guar­an­tee the depart­ment will re­ceive full fund­ing from the state and fed­eral grants.

Be­cause of the un­cer­tainty, Berry said, it is dif­fi­cult to strate­gi­cally plan in his own depart­ment. That is why, he said, there may be a need to pull school re­source of­fi­cers back into pa­trol duty.

Berry also said the acad­emy ses­sions can start “when­ever they are needed” so long as the sher­iff’s of­fice has the funds to do so.

In the past, ac­cord­ing to data logged from the sher­iff’s of­fice, there have been po­lice acad­emy cour­ses through­out the year.

In 2015, there was a class

on Nov. 14 and March 28. In 2014 there was one po­lice class on March 31. There were cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer acad­emy classes on Sept. 12 and Jan. 31.

Po­lice acad­emy classes are 29 weeks and cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer classes are 10 weeks. Berry said with the of­fi­cer hires de­layed un­til Jan. 1 the depart­ment will not see the fruits of their hires un­til “March or April.”

“[The com­mis­sion­ers] just de­layed a po­ten­tial of me putting staff on my books and im­pact­ing my com­mu­ni­ties for al­most one fis­cal cy­cle,” Berry said. “We just can’t keep op­er­at­ing that way. More so with­out com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the sher­iff.”

County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) said Berry, Ei­choltz and Mali­noff had “con­stant talks” through­out the process. Mur­phy said the fis­cal in­for­ma­tion was de­liv­ered to the com­mis­sion­ers ac­cu­rately and they made a de­ci­sion from that in­for­ma­tion.

County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent De­bra Davis (D) said she is dis­ap­pointed that no one con­tacted Berry and his staff to ask them about the de­lay in hires. That is not how gov­ern­ment works, she said.

“They’re mak­ing de­ci­sions on what the sher­iff can and can’t do based on their in­ter­pre­ta­tion. That’s dis­re­spect­ful. That’s not smart. And I

think our cit­i­zens de­serve bet­ter,” Davis said.

The op­er­at­ing bud­get for the next fis­cal year is set at $374,542,600 and the cap­i­tal bud­get is set at $94,833,000. The sher­iff of­fice’s bud­get is set at $82.7 mil­lion in the gen­eral fund.

Berry orig­i­nally re­quested $88.2 mil­lion along with a strate­gic plan and 23 new sworn of­fi­cers. Berry said he would be will­ing to im­ple­ment those of­fi­cers over time, but Ei­choltz pre­vi­ously said he is be­ing cau­tious of this fis­cal year’s in­crease in rev­enues be­ing a bub­ble.

Mur­phy said it is im­pos­si­ble to give ev­ery agency in the county every­thing they want dur­ing the bud­get ses-

sion. But the com­mis­sion­ers have a “will­ing­ness” to go back and re­visit things, he said, as the county’s pro­jec­tions de­velop for the next fis­cal year.

County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said the county has to be care­ful mov­ing into its next fis­cal year when plan­ning for the fu­ture. Robin­son said he is not sure the sher­iff’s of­fice will be neg­a­tively im­pacted by the de­lay in hires, but he is al­ways will­ing to re­con­sider things with more in­for­ma­tion.

Robin­son said the way the bud­get is struc­tured helped the county make hires in all nec­es­sary ar­eas and also al­lowed for step in­creases across the board. Those are pos­i­tive things, he said.

“We want to be care­ful that this isn’t a bub­ble,” Robin­son said. “We’re in such good shape. I even sug­gested that six months into the fis­cal year we can take a look at things to see if they con­tinue to come in at such a ro­bust pace.”

But Davis said it is too late to re­con­sider things be­cause the bud­get has al­ready been passed. It would re­quire a mo­tion to re­visit the bud­get dis­cus­sions and it would re­quire an­other vote to ap­prove a dif­fer­ent bud­get.

“That’s a lost cause,” Davis said. “But they didn’t seem to care to deal with facts. They could have called the sher­iff.”

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