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Cecil County Sheriff Election: ‘Team’ Focus in GOP Primary– Chris Sutton Pushes ‘Top Tier Targets’ in War on Drugs

April 15, 2014
By Nancy Schwerzler

A Cecil Times Special Report

In the 2014 elections for Cecil County Sheriff—always one of the most hotly contested races in local politics—there is a new watchword among the leading candidates in the June Republican primary: “team.” While past election campaigns have focused on the individual candidate for Sheriff, this year the focus is on the ‘team’ of senior officials who would run the law enforcement agency if a particular candidate were elected.

In lengthy interviews with Cecil Times, candidates Chris Sutton and Scott Adams outlined their own and team members’ credentials, policing philosophies, and plans for Cecil County’s prime law enforcement agency. In two articles, their views are explored—with Sutton going second in this series after a coin toss determined the order of interview publication.
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“TEAM SUTTON”—Campaign Motto: “Let’s Make Cecil County Safe Again”

CHRIS SUTTON, Sheriff: Attended Cecil College, studying criminal justice. Corporal, road supervisor, Cecil County Sheriff’s Department. More than 20 years with the department, former K9 unit officer. Recognized four times by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for arrests of drunk drivers.

KENNETH RUSSELL, Chief Deputy: Studied business management at Cecil College; graduate, Greater Chesapeake Law Enforcement Executive Development School; 26 years law enforcement experience, including 11 years with Cecil County Sheriff’s Department; Sergeant on Cecil County Drug Task force and 16 years drug investigation experience, including undercover work; 6 years supervisory experience; 2004 Deputy of the year award, Maryland Sheriff’s Association; US Army veteran.

TERRY RESSIN, Major, Law Enforcement: B.S. in management, Johns Hopkins University through the Police Executive Leadership program; 28 years law enforcement experience, including 25 years with Baltimore City force, retiring with rank of Lieutenant with Internal Investigations unit; certified training instructor in police issues; Joined Cecil County Sheriff’s agency in 2010, working patrol duties and currently assigned to Criminal Investigations Division.

EUGENE TUER, Major, Corrections/Detention Center: Masters of Education, Corrections, Coppin State College; Bachelor’s degree, University of Baltimore; currently chairs Criminal Justice program at TESST College in Towson; former superintendent of Cecil County Detention center and first administrator of the county’s former Community Adult Rehabilitation Center program; former work-release director in Toledo, Ohio

ED KOLUCH, Director, Work-Release Programs: Towson University, degree in Sociology; 25 years with Baltimore City Police Department, sergeant with supervisory experience in vice and drug investigations and internal affairs, recipient of the department’s bronze star; after retirement, joined Cecil County Sheriff’s agency in Criminal Investigations and later served as Major for Law Enforcement. US Marine Corps veteran.
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In making his third run for Cecil County Sheriff, Chris Sutton says “my philosophy hasn’t changed” but “the problems have gotten worse” in the county, especially drug-related crime. This time, he is running as leader of a “team” of experienced law enforcement officials, because “you have to surround yourself with good people.” Like a football coach, he said, he is bringing in “guys with expertise in certain areas that I don’t have.” And if he is elected, “we’re ready to go.”

This time, without an incumbent Sheriff to run against since Barry Janney is retiring, it’s a different campaign. “This campaign is not about bashing what Barry Janney has done,” Sutton said. Even with a new team behind him, it is Sutton’s name on the ballot and citizens will “vote for one person and that person has to be someone they trust…they already know me,” he said. But there will be an added advantage: “You’re voting for one person but you’re getting the team.”

Fighting drug crime is at the top of Sutton’s priority list. As outlined on his campaign website, Sutton’s key initiative would be creating a “top-tier targets list of those responsible for the majority of crime in the county.” And that means “going after drug dealers.” Sutton plans to “shift resources to create a fugitive apprehension team” and he also advocates “creating closer relationships with local judges in order to hold criminals accountable and keep them off the streets.”

In addition, Sutton says he wants to re-deploy two deputies to patrol “community hot spots” and develop relationships with community residents in high crime areas and he also wants the County Council to pass a “nuisance abatement ordinance” that he believes will assist deputies in cleaning up neighborhoods. He also advocates hiring some contract workers, including possible retired deputies working without benefits, to assist in monitoring sex offenders who are on the state registry.

A joint Drug Task Force including county deputies, State Police and Elkton town police members is still firmly in place here, despite State Police backing out of some regional task forces in other areas of the Eastern Shore. Sutton and Russell say they plan to assign more county deputies to the task force—which targets high-level drug dealers—to combat drug distribution and there is an added bonus: the prospect of getting drug dealers’ ill-gotten money through asset forfeitures that can be used to support law enforcement efforts.

The greater the Sheriff’s agency’s participation in the task force, the greater their share of seized assets, they said. And Russell said he has been involved in multiple forfeiture proceedings that have netted substantial funds for police operations so he has the experience to deal with the often time-consuming process.

On the Sutton campaign’s website, Russell observed that “Over the years, my fellow officers and I have asked for more help as we watched first-hand what was happening in this county, but our pleas went unanswered.”

In the current county budget, five new deputies were authorized, although their hiring was delayed by a last-minute budget cut imposed by the Cecil County Council. (Previously, the County Commissioners had refused to hire any additional deputies for over four years.) The new Fiscal 2015 budget proposed by County Executive Tari Moore includes one additional deputy—a cut from the two new deputies requested by retiring Sheriff Janney.

Russell told Cecil Times that he was not specifically blaming the former County Commissioners or the County Council for the rising drug crime problem but said he and other deputies often felt like they were “putting fingers in the dike” without sufficient resources to address the problems they face.

“I don’t want to throw any stones at the Council people,” Sutton said. “We can re-allocate resources” and reduce the number of “administrators” in the agency.

One of the reforms Sutton is committed to making is changing the work schedules of deputies, who dislike their current eight-hour schedules and rotating shifts. “We have to build morale,” Sutton said. He has promised current deputies that if he is elected, as of February, 2015 there will be a new shift schedule. “I’m going to let the guys vote” to decide if they want 10-hour or 12-hour shifts, Sutton said. The revamped scheduling could help deploy deputies more efficiently with quicker response times, he added.

The department also needs to make more efficient use of technology, Sutton said, citing current laptop computers assigned to most patrol cars that are incompatible with report filing software used in the main office. As a result, he said, deputies can’t file their reports electronically while still out in the field on patrol and have to file reports back at headquarters. The county government’s information technology department took over all computer-related duties from the Sheriff’s Department about two years ago and Sutton said he would seek grants to offset costs for software upgrades that would have to come out of the Sheriff’s budget.

The Sheriff’s department has one of the more complex budgets of any county agency, with law enforcement, the detention center and a work-release program all under the department’s umbrella but with separate fiscal accounting requirements. While the Sheriff’s department has a business manager to deal with many fiscal tracking issues, Sutton said that Tuer’s experience operating the Detention Center—which accounts for about half the agency’s overall budget—would bring a veteran budget expert into the process.

Sutton said he and Tuer have also discussed ways to help make the jail operations and work-release programs more cost-effective, such as taking advantage of tax credit programs that encourage employers to hire inmates on work-release—and in turn, the inmates pay fees for room-board-supervision costs that more than offset their expenses at the facility. Right now, Sutton said, there are vacant beds in the work-release unit and getting inmates into jobs would help defray expenses while also giving inmates a chance to develop job skills for their future.

As a three-time political candidate, politics is not a dirty word to Sutton and he said a Sheriff has to know how to deal with the elected officials in the county such as the County Council and County Executive who ultimately hold the purse strings for his agency.

In the past two elections, Sutton ran for Sheriff as a Democrat but lost to Republican Barry Janney in the general elections. Sutton changed his party affiliation to Republican for the 2014 elections, and he said he has been “greeted with open arms” by Republicans. “I’m still the same Chris Sutton,” he said, and “my beliefs haven’t changed.” But he said he felt the Democratic Party at the state and national level no longer reflected his views. “I didn’t really leave the Democratic Party; the party left me,” he said.

This time, Sutton has raised a smaller campaign warchest so far than he did in his last election run, when he out-spent the usually big-ticket Janney campaign fund. State Election Board records as of January, 2014 show that Sutton raised $39,634 in donations and fundraiser ticket purchases in 2013, plus he had a carryover balance from the previous year of $11,073. After expenses of $37,800 for printing, billboards, yard signs, etc.—including payments of over $6,000 to hire a professional writer, Apryl Parcher, for his website and social media accounts—Sutton had a cash in the bank balance of $10,510 as of early January, 2014.

(In contrast, state Election Board records show chief rival Scott Adams had raised $31,067 in contributions and fundraiser ticket sales since filing as a candidate last year. After expenses of $25,552, primarily for yard signs, billboards, and printing expenses, Adams’ campaign fund had a cash balance of $5,544 in January.)

The Republican primary field is crowded this year, with five candidates, although Sutton and Adams are the most visible and well-funded candidates in that race. The primary election is also months earlier this year than in the past, when the primaries were usually held in September, so there is less time to get a candidate’s message out to voters. (In the Democratic primary, there are four candidates seeking that party’s nomination for Sheriff.)

Sutton says of his rivals that “they are all good guys” and pledges that he will run “a clean campaign.” But he attributes a recent court case against him to a disgruntled former friend who he believes is trying to discredit his political candidacy.

In February, a woman filed a motion seeking a temporary “peace order” against Sutton, saying that she was fearful for her safety over comments allegedly made by Sutton in connection with a disputed $10,000 loan made to him in 2007 to assist him in opening his “Pampered Pets” dog grooming business in Elkton. (He sold the business last year in preparation for his run for Sheriff.) The temporary peace order was granted by the visiting judge. However, after a subsequent hearing on a possible permanent protective order, the judge denied the request but had a stern commentary for Sutton.

The temporary peace order process generally involves a low-threshold standard of proof that briefly puts in place a cooling-off period among disputing parties until a full evidentiary hearing can be held. (We sometimes suspect that our diva dog could get a temporary peace order against us for daring to take her to the vet for vaccinations.)

Transcripts of the two proceedings indicate that all involved should have, but didn’t, create a written promissory note for the disputed loan. But the judge cautioned Sutton that his choice of words, including his undisputed comments that the woman was “digging her own grave” and didn’t know “who she is messing with” were inappropriate for a law enforcement officer.

The judge said that he hoped he had “struck fear in the heart of you, Mr. Sutton, Officer Sutton, because you cannot engage in that type of conversation with anybody as a police officer. It’s inappropriate…That may be fine at the Elks Club bar, but you don’t say that to a lady if you’re a police officer. You can’t do it. It’s going to get you in trouble.”

Sutton told Cecil Times that he could not discuss the disputed loan since it is a matter of a separate civil legal action. (In the peace order proceeding, he conceded the money had not been repaid.) On the judge’s admonition, Sutton said he felt the cited comments were “taken out of context,” and the case was “politically motivated.” But, he added, “I can always take advice, and if a judge offers me advice I will certainly accept it.”

(Sutton’s campaign website is here: “http://www.suttonforsheriff.com” )

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10 Responses to Cecil County Sheriff Election: ‘Team’ Focus in GOP Primary– Chris Sutton Pushes ‘Top Tier Targets’ in War on Drugs

  1. Chris sutton on April 17, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Let me make a correction to this interview.

    First of all a judge did not and does not issue temporary peace orders a court commissioner does. Yes, anyone can get a temporary peace order issued. It is when you go in front of the judge when both sides of the story are heard. In my case the judge threw it out saying a peace order or actions warranting a peace order were not warranted.

    The statements I made were to a third party not the person who took out the order against me. It is my opinion that this was just an attempt to smear my campaign.
    I am not a evil person. I realize that everything I do is under scrutiny– do you think I would waste my entire career and dream of being sheriff by doing something like this? Ask yourself this question. If this were any other peace order hearing would we even hear about it.

    That is all I have to say about that. Now let’s focus on what is really important and that is the safety of this county I love and how my team and I are going to make it better.

  2. Tina Sharp on April 18, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Been there, done that. Chris is a good person, politics out of it he’s a nice person. Rise above it.

  3. Richard Codey on April 18, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Mr. Sutton,
    Let’s address your response to the article. A District Court Commissioner issued the Peace Order on January 31st scheduling a hearing for 2/3/14. On 2/3/14 a District Court Judge upheld a temporary peace order against you for what was described in the statement provided by the person seeking relief from your actions. You failed to mention in your response to the article that you did make statements that were deemed unprofessional for a police officer by the Judge who made the final ruling.

    The only reason the order was not upheld at the FINAL Order Hearing is because you did not continue making your unprofessional statements via text as either a cooler head prevailed on you to stop. The Judge could not make the order permanent because you stopped acting in the manner that warranted the first Judge putting the Temporary Order in place. All of this is available for the public to see on Maryland Judiciary Case Search.

  4. Disappointed Voter on April 18, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Well, Mr. Sutton, people have been waiting patiently for a response of some sort from you or one of your supporters. You can try to sway it any way you wish, but the lasting message taken away from the peace order hearings is that your behavior was inappropriate, reckless, disrespectful and disappointing to say the least.

    Regardless of who issues a temporary peace order, you and your attorney sat through the second hearing on February 10th and had every opportunity to discount what was being said by the other parties and neither of you said a word. No objections were made by your attorney regarding false statements that you felt were being made… So, your explanation– “The statements I made were to a third party not the person who took out the order against me. It is my opinion that this was just an attempt to smear my campaign”– is just an attempt by a desperate candidate to deflect voters from seeing the clear picture here. …

    Frankly, myself and lots of other Cecil Countians are embarrassed for you. If you want to save any support you have left, you should be arranging to set up some kind of payment plan to pay back the people who trusted you. ..

    My family and I will be shifting our support to a candidate who deserves and has earned the extremely important position of Cecil County Sheriff. . Obviously, the judge’s harsh words for you didn’t sink in. If they did, you would be publicly asking for your supporters’ forgiveness…

  5. Addison Blakely on April 26, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Mr. Sutton,
    Please explain to the voters your strategy behind your placement of campaign signs to deliberately block your strongest competitor’s signs. I haven’t seen another candidate reciprocate.

    And, the creation of a fake Facebook page under the name “Barry Hughes” and then …blaming it on one of your committee members– didn’t you state publicly that you would be running a clean campaign this time around?

    Obviously, you are worried about your competitors and you should be. It’s a shame that you don’t feel that your qualifications are strong enough to stand on their own merit so you feel the need to belittle your competitors. I hope serious voters take the time to examine all the candidates for sheriff instead of settling for you, Mr. Sutton…

    • Chris Sutton on May 5, 2014 at 6:58 pm

      Addison, These are all false accusations again. I am the one who is being attacked. Just check out my opponents Facebook and his supporters Facebook. I have my supporters being told they better hope I win. I do not hide behind anything. This court hearing was an opportunity to try and hurt my campaign.

      I truly believe people will see that and rise above this slanderous approach by my opponents supporters. My number is 443 553 2787. I will be more than glad to talk to anyone with concerns. I do believe that my team and I are the only ones sharing solutions to the many problems we face. I am and always will run a clean campaign.

      • Addison Blakely on May 7, 2014 at 2:26 pm

        Mr. Sutton,

        I can’t believe that you can lie to the honest and caring voters of Cecil County with a straight face. There is proof of all of the facts that I stated above. You don’t now, and never have, run a clean campaign and you know it. You aren’t fooling anyone. Please remember your Christian values. Karma has finally arisen.

  6. Steve Kilby on May 27, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    I don’t think anyone who hasn’t had a drug arrest since 2006 should be running for Sheriff on the premise of leading the way to cracking down on drugs– Just sayin’.

  7. Dan J on May 28, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Here’s a thought: don’t worry about what people willingly put into their bodies and acknowledge that the “war on drugs” has been catastrophic for America. Over a trillion dollars and hundreds of thousands in jail and all people can do is cry for more funding.

    Cannot you see that no amount of funding will ever be enough? Did not Prohibition teach you anything? A full-blown police state won’t stop it. As if the last 3 decades of the highest incarceration rate in the world and perpetually-overcrowded prisons aren’t enough evidence to convince us to try something else.

    If you want to fund something, fund recovery programs for those who seek help. Fund training programs for parents to help them educate their kids about the dangers of drug use. It’s none of your business what an adult puts in their body, be it broccoli or cigarettes or a beer or a joint: their body, their business.

    And in case someone wants to start with the logical fallacies, I’ve never done drugs and neither smoke nor drink. It’s about liberty, not your personal preference to use the force of an armed government to prevent a cancer patient (or a healthy 20-something) from smoking a joint (though smoking tobacco is acceptable, isn’t it? Hypocrites ?) Liberty– remember that word?

  8. Steve Kilby on June 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    If you want the truth Sutton supporters try listening to the last 15 minutes of this court hearing where the judge lets you know exactly the type of person you are backing. Of course if people just did some homework they would know already.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pP4ly6A497o&sns=em

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OUR CECIL COUNTY DELEGATE DELIVERED (Part 3)

Supporting Our First Responders

*Secured Mobile Command Unit Bus

*Helped obtain land for Perryville Fire Station 16

*Fought for traffic signal devices to aid emergency vehicles

*Hosted security/safety workshop on crude oil transports

And More to Come
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