Cumberland Times-News

Local News

April 28, 2011

Plan to reunify county police, deputies unveiled

Sheriff says merger could be complete by June 30

CUMBERLAND — Allegany County Sheriff Craig Robertson plans to move quickly to implement a plan to unify the county Bureau of Police with his sheriff’s office. The plan will put all officers under his leadership as sworn sheriff’s deputies and abolish the BOP.

Robertson told Allegany County commissioners at their regular Thursday evening public meeting that he’d like to have the reunification completed by June 30.

No officers would lose their jobs in the transition and a plan to deal with seniority issues has been worked out with the union representing deputies agreeing to waive certain provisions in their contract to facilitate working out the seniority issues.

Robertson was presenting the recommendations of an advisory committee he appointed Dec. 30, 2010, to come up with a plan for the merger. The sheriff said he was adopting the recommendations “basically” as his own.

The plan would have sheriff’s deputies maintain their current seniority levels. Bureau of Police officers who were sheriff’s deputies before the formation of the county force in 2008 will receive credit for all their time spent as deputies, but no credit for their BOP service.

A master seniority list of all officers will be created for the department. It will be used only for purposes of furloughs and reduction of force situations. In all other cases, seniority will be determined within each of two divisions of the sheriff’s office, a judicial division and a patrol division.

“We support the sheriff in his efforts and we look forward to coming back together with our brothers in the Bureau of Police,” said Deputy Michael Beal, the president of AFSCME Local 1521.

The BOP was created in 2008 after continued disagreements between then-Sheriff David Goad and the Allegany County commissioners. The BOP was given road patrol and criminal investigation responsibility and Goad’s officers provided court security, served papers and operated the county detention center. The three commissioners who approved the change were all defeated in the 2010 primary election and the relationship between the BOP and sheriff’s office was a major campaign issue.

 The officers in the merged department would continue in their current functions, with former bureau officers forming the patrol division and current deputies maintaining their roles as a judicial division in the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office.

Patrol functions include criminal investigations, traffic accident investigation and related matters. Judicial functions include service of court papers, court security and running the county detention center, Robertson said. Transfers could occur by officer request when a position in either division opened, but there would be no hopping from one division to the other during the transition. Robertson also wants to create a ranking system in the department.

Cars will not be repainted in order to save on costs. Changes will be made as new vehicles are brought into the department, Robertson said.

Bureau of Police Chief Bobby Dick would not be out of a county job, said County Administrator David Eberly.

“The commissioners are committed to ensuring that no personnel will lose employment as a result of this consolidation,” Eberly said.

Eberly deferred further comment on where Dick might be placed. Both Dick and Robertson have said previously that Dick would likely not be part of the merged force. Dick and Robertson were both at Thursday’s meeting and the two were speaking together with Commissioner Creade Brodie Jr. after the meeting.

“This process is to heal a community that has been torn apart,” Commissioner Michael McKay said. McKay said there was no political payback involved in the merger plan. A meeting for public comment on the plan is set for May 5 during the commission meeting.

Robertson met with officers from both organizations before his public announcement of the merger plan. “I want to meet with the officers prior to a public announcement. I don’t want any surprises for them,” Robertson said last week.

The advisory committee included Ray Presley as its chairman. Presley is a retired state police officer and currently the executive director of the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council. Also named to the committee were John Morley, a retired Cumberland Police Department captain and now director of security at Allegany College of Maryland; George McKinley, an attorney; Stu Czapski, president of the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce; and Washington County Sheriff Doug Mullendore.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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