Cecil County Budget: Sheriff’s Deputies Lack Riot Gear, Short-Staffed; Unable to Help Baltimore Cops in Riot

April 30, 2015

Cecil County Sheriff’s deputies have no riot gear to protect them in violent crowd situations and are so short-staffed that the agency could not respond to a request for help from the embattled Baltimore City Police Department during the past week, Sheriff Scott Adams told the Cecil County Council in Elkton on Thursday.

“We currently do not have any riot gear,” Adams said. And after the Baltimore City Police Department asked the county to help them out during the recent rioting that occurred in the city following the death of an arrested man while in police custody, Adams said, “we didn’t have the equipment” to put deputies into such a dangerous situation. Furthermore, the Cecil County Sheriff’s department is currently so short-staffed on patrol duties that the agency could not spare the staff to send down to the city.

“I’m sure this week has been eye-opening for you as we watched a city in our own state come under attack from violent criminals,” Adams told the County Council. But his agency was “limited” in its ability to respond to a call for help from the Baltimore PD due to Cecil County’s “manpower and equipment shortfalls.”

But the county did back-fill by covering some duties for the State Police barracks in North East in Cecil County—after some troopers from North East were sent to Baltimore to help out, Adams said. (In addition, the Cecil County Sheriff’s Department organized a volunteer support collection and delivery to provide bottled water, snacks and food to police agencies on duty in Baltimore.)

Long before the recent Baltimore riots showed TV watchers around the state the need for police riot gear, Adams recognized the shortfall in his agency’s equipment and put in a budget request to remedy this important gap in Cecil County law enforcement’s readiness.

Several months ago in his budget proposal to the Cecil County Executive, Adams asked for $89,000 for riot equipment, including anti-ballistic helmets, riot helmets, riot sticks and related emergency supplies. In his detailed proposal to County Executive Tari Moore, the anti-riot equipment request was spelled out in specific line item detail, as part of a broader “uniforms” category of expenses. Also included in that overall uniforms category was spending for new and replacement bullet-proof vests—totaling about $13,100—after Department of Justice matching grants that would pay an equal amount of the expense. The “uniforms” allocation also included gun supplies for deputies.

Overall, Adams asked for a $319,750 allocation for “uniforms” and related equipment. But Moore cut that figure to $222,015 in her proposed Fiscal 2016 budget—a $97,735 reduction. A small portion of her reduction of the Sheriff’s request in the uniform category– $35,000—could be attributed to her denial of Adams’ request to supply an additional five new deputies to the force. (Adams asked for new deputies to replace officers re-assigned from patrol duties to several anti-drug task forces, special units and initiatives.) But Moore rejected Adams’ request to add five deputies to the county law enforcement force.

So after denying money for those new deputies and their uniforms, Moore’s net cut from Adams’ request in the existing needed “uniforms” and equipment category that includes riot gear amounts to $62,735.

Some County Councilors told Cecil Times privately that they were shocked to learn that the local law enforcement agency had no riot protection gear.

Moore has said that she might be willing to re-consider Adams’ request for additional patrol deputies if and when he fills several vacancies in the currently authorized force.

Adams disclosed Thursday that the number of deputy vacancies had grown by one—to eight—since his budget was originally proposed several months ago. “We’re out there every day,” he said, trying to recruit deputies to the Cecil County force.

But his efforts are hampered by the low salaries the county pays deputies in comparison with other law enforcement agencies in the nearby tri-state area. He said that there are some promising recruits in the pipeline, but the hiring process—including background checks and training, takes time—up to 18 months, from the time of application through police academy training and on the job field training under the guidance of a mentor deputy locally.

Under questioning by some County Council members, Adams also explained how a new shift work system—providing for longer hours worked per day and staggered start times—could help reduce overtime pay costs while providing better service to county residents. [SEE previous exclusive CECIL TIMES Special Report on Adams’ budget request and Moore’s reductions, as well as how the new shift changes will work, here: http://ceciltimes.com/2015/04/cecil-county-sheriff-budget-adams-reorganizes-agency-but-county-execs-budget-plan-could-limit-efforts/

Adams also cautioned the County Council that there could be additional training expenses for new deputies to replace 14 deputies who are eligible for retirement in Fiscal 2016, which begins 7/1/2015. There is no way of knowing how many of those eligible will retire or choose to stay on the job, he said.

(It is a measure of how far the county has come in just the past decade that there are any deputies sticking around long enough for retirement: in the past, the county’s law enforcement pension system was so bad that there had never been a retiree, until the former County Commissioners’ board including Nelson Bolender and Harry Hepbron passed legislation to improve the deputies’ pension fund. As a result, more experienced deputies are staying in service here, instead of the past routine practice of getting Cecil County taxpayers to pay for their training and leaving after a few years for more lucrative police agencies elsewhere.) But the county still lags behind other police agencies in starting pay.

Adams said that, in fact, his department is “a young agency” and that the average age of on-the-job deputies is younger than in many other police agencies in the region.
Adams also re-iterated his new initiatives, and seeking of state government and private foundation grants, to address the problems of drug-addicted inmates ending up at the county’s detention center. He is also partnering with the state/county supported Cecil County Health Department to bring new programs to the jail to help inmates get off illegal drugs. (See the previously cited Cecil Times report, above, for more details on Adams’ initiatives.)

Adams, who appeared before the County Council in full police uniform, was greeted with polite and factually inquisitive questioning from council members. County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) was absent from the budget worksession.

In recent past years’ final budget actions, Hodge has proposed last-minute, across-the-board cuts in the Sheriff’s Department’s budget, without specifying how or where such cuts should be made.

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12 Responses to Cecil County Budget: Sheriff’s Deputies Lack Riot Gear, Short-Staffed; Unable to Help Baltimore Cops in Riot

  1. Common Sense on April 30, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    … WHY does Cecil County need militarized “Riot Gear Equipment and Uniforms” when we have never had any NEED (nor seem for the foreseeable future have the need) for that kind of “enhanced uniform” for local enforcement.

    I understand that the “brothers in blue” want to help other counties and cities like Baltimore. But the duty and the job of the county sheriff’s department is the “keeping of the peace” of this COUNTY and to spend more money for OUR law enforcement to get this “enhanced uniform” to help another county, well, I do NOT see this as a good investment for our County.

    Also, if we need “riot protection” that is what the National Guard is for–not to escalate the militarization of the local police.

    We are seeing police / law enforcement ALL over the country becoming paramilitary forces. I have been near the Conowingo Dam during a hurricane and there was a LOCAL officer directing people to turn around.

    He was dressed in massive battle gear, all in black, Wearing a bulletproof flack vest with equipment looking like he stepped out of Iraq. To direct traffic. Really? This is NOT Iraq and the citizens of this County are NOT going to attack you with an IED. WHAT DOES THIS IMAGE PROJECT?

    The fact that the lines are blurring from Military and Local Police are troubling and the actions of SOME officers in some areas (where they treat citizens like “civilians”and potential threats at all time) is very troubling. In some areas officers are at “high levels of stress”, dressed in a fashion that projects military authority and that can, in some cases, cause more problems than it helps.

    I have family who have been and are in Law Enforcement for many years and THEY are very concerned at the way that the local / state / county law enforcement are getting militarized in their actions and appearance– because it is changing the dynamic of the ROLE of what local law enforcement should be.

    We do not need to militarize our local law enforcement. We need to use the channels (like the National Guard) as necessary and keep the lines of law enforcement within the duties they are charged with.

    • Ronald Demmler on May 1, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      Could not have written a better opinion. It is not the responsibility of every county to go to the aid of the big cities problems.
      The mayor of Baltimore should have asked for the national guard from the beginning. That is one of their duties.
      Having riot gear does not make an officer qualified to handle situations in a riot. Better they stay home.

      • Joe on May 9, 2015 at 8:32 am

        Common Sense, How many days have you spent patrolling the streets in Cecil County? Or, in Baltimore City? Why don’t you participate in the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office Ride Along Program or the Citizens Academy. I guarantee you would change your clueless thinking. Ignorance is bliss.

      • Jackie on May 10, 2015 at 5:10 pm

        LE should have the appropriate equipment to handle whatever situations may arise that would fall within its realm to handle. Having this type of equipment does not militarize the police. Police already carry guns, tasers, pepper spray, etc. Suggesting that the possession of this equipment militarizes them is no different than saying civilians possessing weapons criminalizes them. Since I support the 2nd Amendment, I see a huge problem with that thinking.

        Just like the private citizen with his/her weapon, it comes down to how the police use this equipment. There is a time and place for using these things appropriately. We’ve seen several examples recently. How police equipment is used (whether it is a weapon they currently carry or riot gear) determines whether or not there is a militarization. Militarization is a mindset and behavior, not determined by helmets and bullet proof vest (which they should have). As long as LE recognizes its role as servants of the public and acts within the boundaries of the Constitution, then there will be no issue.

        • Jackie on May 10, 2015 at 5:14 pm

          I don’t think we should spend the money on this to be available to help Baltimore, but I don’t think that it is far fetched to think that we will need that equipment here in the not too distant future unless there is a shift in our culture.

    • Michael Kalinsky on May 2, 2015 at 3:52 am

      Common Sense, let me explain to you why I need a helmet and shield which have been standard pieces of police equipment since the 60’s. Currently, if someone throws a brick or a bicycle at me as was the case 1.5 years ago in one of our neighborhoods where lawlessness is common, I currently have my wits and the grace of God to protect me. Whether the equipment is black, green, or purple has no connection with the reality of today’s society.

      Ferguson, Missouri is a town the size of Elkton. I am quite sure no one there believed their town would ever have need of protective gear for their Officers as the town had always been safe before.

      As to your point of the “Militarization” of law enforcement: please sir, do some research before you use a term you most obviously do not understand. Law enforcement going back to the era of World War I has been using helmets, machine guns, and armored vehicles. The absolute lack of knowledge driven by media hysteria over recent incidents is sickening to those of us risking our lives everyday. You explain to my son why I don’t have a ballistic helmet to protect me when the rocks and chunks of sidewalk start flying again in the neighborhoods.

      Finally, the National Guard is a last resort in any area. As a former US Army National Guard Officer let me be blunt. You don’t want citizen soldiers patrolling your streets. They are not meant for this type of work unless they are allowed to shoot back and they are NEVER allowed to do so.

  2. Harold McCanick on May 1, 2015 at 6:34 am

    Baltimore costs us enough.We don’t need to spend more money on them for”Just in Case”.

  3. Penny G on May 1, 2015 at 7:49 am

    Why do you think this is help Baltimore??? Before the riots ever happened down there the new sheriff saw a gap in the equipment that any modern police agency needs just for their own protection. So our deputies should wait, being pelted by bricks and bottles without helmets or shields, until the governor get around to sending in the National Guard?

    It CAN happen here. What about when our deputies have to go up against drug gangs? Those bums won’t hesitate to shoot a cop in the head. I’d rather get helmets for our deputies to protect them.

  4. Benjamin J. Hendrickson Sr. on May 1, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    The request made by Sheriff Adams was a reasonable one and should be considered carefully.

    “…including anti-ballistic helmets, riot helmets, riot sticks and related emergency supplies.”

    Now is a great time to find that our local county police force lacks these items. It may be good to prepare them to handle an event like this if it happens closer to home.

  5. scott on May 2, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Police always want more flashing lights, gear, dogs, guns, pay, etc. It’s human nature. It is common sense to evaluate these requests and procede appropriatelty as Tari has done. Ask for $10 when you expect $5.
    I’d like to see some data on retention and cost of hiring personel that backs these statements of losing personel to other agencies?

  6. Jeannette Houle on May 3, 2015 at 11:56 am

    I’m shocked that Cecil County government turns a blind eye to the possibilities of the same kind of activities in this county with pockets of areas such as Hollingsworth Manor, Lakeside, Winding Brook, Booth Street, to name a few. Oh and there are more.

    Moore can find the money to spend on all sorts of frivolities but never seems to find the money to help the law enforcement agency that would have to protect her if such an incident occurred in Cecil County. Can’t even have an animal control commission meeting in the county building without the need of law enforcement. Wake up Tari Moore – you are just as incapable of governing our county as is the mayor of Baltimore…

  7. SchoolMarm on May 12, 2015 at 6:15 am

    The way political and quasi-political events are playing out in Cecil County, I suggest some riot gear be purchased for those police assigned to attend the Commissioners meetings and any Animal Control meetings, as least if Commissioner Hodge is correct. Heck, Tuesday night might not be a good night to start.

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