Cecil County Sheriff Budget: Adams Reorganizes Agency, but County Exec Budget Could Limit Efforts

April 3, 2015

A CECIL TIMES Special Report

Cecil County Executive Tari Moore cut nearly $1 million from the Fiscal 2016 budget proposed by Sheriff Scott Adams, who is looking to reorganize operations to better address the county’s crime and illegal drug problems. But the budget setback could undermine or delay some of the changes he wants to make, according to Adams.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” Adams said of the county executive’s budget plan unveiled this week. As a result, some of his plans for re-organizing operations and developing new initiatives to serve the public will be limited or placed on hold for the immediate future.

In an interview with Cecil Times, Adams explained that he gave Moore a detailed four-year plan of where he wanted to take his department, provided a blueprint of the staffing needed to accomplish that mission, and emphasized his commitment to finding new ways to address the rampant drug abuse problem in the county.

As part of that plan, Adams proposed adding five additional deputies to the patrol force—to replace some of the deputies who were re-deployed to several anti-drug initiatives– and three additional community corrections officers as part of a program to co-ordinate with the county’s Drug Court. The Drug Court, operating under the county’s Circuit Court system, seeks to divert drug abusers into treatment programs instead of traditional incarceration for drug-related crime. The Community Corrections program operated by the Sheriff’s Department handles all drug-testing for Drug Court participants.

In his budget request to the county executive, Adams sought $10.9 million for the law enforcement division of his agency, which also oversees the county Detention Center and the Community Corrections work-release program that have separate budget allocations. But Moore cut the law enforcement figure by over $500,000, to $10.4 million. However, her budget would still provide the law enforcement division with over $361,000 more than the current budget year. [UPDATE: Much of that increase is due to the need for replacement of 11 patrol vehicles that have reached mileage and age standards for replacement so as to provide safe vehicles for deputies on patrol.]

The law enforcement division is the core of the Sheriff Department’s operations, responding to citizens’ calls for help, investigating crimes, apprehending suspects, enforcing traffic laws and providing a visible deterrence to crime by patrolling throughout the county.

In response to a Cecil Times question at her press conference unveiling her budget proposal, Moore said that “the door is open to review” the decision not to provide funds for five new deputies requested by the sheriff. “The conversation is ongoing,” she said.

Moore justified her decision by saying that there were seven vacant deputy positions right now that should be filled first before adding to the force and that a change in work shifts for deputies could reduce the need for more staff and overtime pay.

“I’m going to take her at her word,” Adams commented, but “I’m also going to hold her to that promise.”

Major George Stanko, who heads the law enforcement division of the department, said the agency was actively recruiting for candidates but faces competition from other law enforcement agencies in the tri-state area that pay significantly higher salaries than Cecil County does. “We’re out in the job market but so is everyone else,” he said, noting that other agencies had an advantage to lure top candidates with more pay.

Deputies have long clamored for changes in their work shifts and schedules and the matter was an issue—at least among deputies—in last year’s election campaign for sheriff. Adams had promised to examine and evaluate what reconfiguration of work hours would produce the most effective service to the public but did not endorse any specific schedule.

After evaluating options, Adams and his leadership team decided to move from an eight-hour shift to an 11.25 hour shift, with the changes expected to be implemented in the next few months. Stanko explained that arrangement would free up two supervisors and re-arrange work groups from five units to four. But the patrol units—the bread-and-butter of local law enforcement—are still short-handed. “We’re short now across the patrol,” Stanko said.

Adams explained that the work shift changes would expand the number of hours per shift but would also stagger start-times and end-times as a way to deploy deputies in a more efficient manner and potentially reduce overtime pay costs. For example, a team might start work at 6:15 am, while the next team begins work at 7:15 am. Since there is some overlap in their on-duty hours, the first group’s end-of-shift calls would be turned over to the next team—thus reducing the need to keep the first group on duty for overtime hours to answer a call for help or handle an on-scene investigation.

The shift change is modeled after a new system started about a year ago in New Castle County DE, Adams said. (And the fractional-hour arrangement helps avoid payroll complications that might automatically kick in overtime pay.) But he and his staff have also plotted out the changes with military-like precision on white-boards and penciled-in revisions for various contingencies.

One of those contingencies is his department’s requirement for a minimum number of deputies on patrol duty at any one time, for the safety of officers as well as providing adequate response to citizens’ calls for help, Adams said. If there are not enough deputies assigned to a particular shift due to illness, vacation or other issues, some deputies will be called in on overtime to fill the gap.

While the schedule changes are part of an overall plan to increase efficiency and services, they do not fully offset the need for more patrol deputies, Adams said, especially since he is re-deploying existing staff to special units aimed at combating illegal drugs.

In a recent appearance before the Cecil County Council, Adams explained that patrol deputies were re-assigned when special units were created—such as the new K9 unit, with three deputies and their four-legged partners—and the Street Level Crime Unit was expanded. In addition, deputies have expanded their roles in the multi-agency Drug Task Force and joint operations with federal law enforcement under a recent High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiative. Those programs are largely aimed at combating the county’s illegal drug epidemic, he said.

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES report on Adams’ testimony on his anti-drug efforts here: http://ceciltimes.com/2015/03/cecil-county-sheriff-adams-advances-anti-drug-efforts-elkton-north-east-top-drug-bust-areas/ ]

And the staffing math gets even more complicated as Adams juggles new hires with veteran deputies to try to plug holes in the law enforcement dike and hold back the crime and drug abuse in the county.

His on-the-street patrol force is currently down by about 14 slots: 7 vacancies; 3 hired staffers who won’t complete their police academy training until June; and 4 people who are just completing their field training. And on top of that, 4 people were re-assigned to the beefed-up street-level crime unit, 1 person was added to the drug task force, while 3 were assigned to the new K-9 unit—all coming from the patrol force.

“Even if we were at full force we’d still be running very short of where we should be,” Adams said.

“I didn’t put those five deputies in the budget as fluff… they are really needed,” he added.

Another initiative by Adams, in response to the county’s drug abuse crisis, called for adding three officers to the Community Corrections/work release division of his agency. (Unlike many other Sheriff’s Departments in the state that only handle patrol duties, in Cecil County the Sheriff is responsible for law enforcement and patrol, a Detention Center, and a Community Corrections program.)

In his budget request to Moore, Adams voluntarily cut the budget for the Detention Center by over 1.4 percent over the current budget year’s allocation and shifted some staff and resources to Community Corrections—as part of his initiatives to be more responsive to drug abuse/drug crime issues.

Adams asked Moore for $2.71 million for Community Corrections, but the county executive cut that request by over $443,000, to $2.28 million. (And even though Adams cut the Detention Center budget by over $112,000 from the current budget year level, Moore cut that component by an additional $50,000, despite contract-mandated increased costs for inmate food and medical care.)

Adams explained that the Community Corrections program is actively co-ordinating with the county’s Drug Court—which seeks to divert drug addicts from imprisonment for crimes committed to fuel their habit into treatment programs to get them off drugs. That collaboration has imposed an increasing burden on his agency—nearly triple the caseload– Adams said, since Community Corrections handles all drug-testing required by the court of each defendant several times a week and must supervise the defendants during that process.

(Adams has also recently filed a grant application to a private foundation seeking funds to support participants in newly-expanded drug treatment programs offered in the Community Corrections program.)

“I’m truly committed to working to deal with the drug problem in Cecil County,” Adams said.

Adams also has broader plans to increase his agency’s outreach into the community in anti-drug and crime-prevention efforts. He wants to add an officer to the School Resources unit that works in the county schools with drug education and on-site security issues and also create a community outreach unit with two staffers dedicated to meeting with community groups, churches, and parents to listen to concerns and bring them information and resources on drug and crime prevention.

But those initiatives are on hold, in light of the county executive’s budget plans, Adams said.

“I’m committed to doing all that I can to help our county do everything we can” to address crime and drug abuse problems, Adams said. “But there comes a time when it’s really hard to ask our dedicated deputies to keep doing more and more with less.”

“We are asking our patrol force to do so much,” the sheriff observed. “There is only so much we can do before people get exhausted, sick, or just decide they’ve had enough.”

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2 Responses to Cecil County Sheriff Budget: Adams Reorganizes Agency, but County Exec Budget Could Limit Efforts

  1. Jenny on April 4, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    I’m disgusted! Wasn’t cecil county cited by the governor as a problem area in Maryland? Who does Moore think is going to fix the problem? I’m pretty sure it’s law enforcement.

    When is the last time our deputies got any raise to speak of? They leave every day they work to take care of us the citizens of Cecil county not knowing if they will come home. Where is the gratitude? Where is the support?!

    It’s like they are being punished for beefing up these different specialties by not being given the funds to add more deputies! And if you aren’t competitive who wants to come work in a drug and crime saturated community?

    I have kids in school and understand the schools need more funding as well but come on this is getting ridiculous. What has to happen for law enforcement to get what they need. Fine raise my taxes but please support the people that are keeping my home safe!

  2. No Dope on April 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Thank you, Sheriff Adams, for giving us a very clear plan and agenda for keeping our county safe and dealing with the drug problems that have dragged our county’s good name into the mud. I sympathise with the families who have a son or daughter hooked on drugs, but I’m really tired of spending my tax money to give them a lot of handholding.

    What I really want to do with my tax dollars is to support our law enforcement officers. They put their lives on the line every day. Let’s let our deputies put the criminals in jail where they belong and make our communities safer. Mrs Moore, put our tax money where it belongs: in the Sheriff budget and stop putting it all into the health department where they use a lot of the money to hire more government workers to “supervise” things.

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