Cecil County Sheriff Pitches 3.5% Budget Boost; 3 New Deputies, Programs to Combat Drugs, Crime

May 3, 2017

In what has become a sad annual ritual, Cecil County Sheriff Scott Adams pleaded with the County Council this week on behalf of his office’s budget while wearing a mourning band around his badge in honor of a Delaware state trooper murdered a few days ago just a short distance over the Cecil County line. Last year, local deputies were mourning the murder of two deputies in adjacent Harford County, as Adams urged local budget support for his agency.*

But Adams said during his Tuesday (5/2/2017) appearance before the County Council that it was “not the time to be sad,” but instead to renew commitments to serving the public. He said he was “grateful” to County Executive Alan McCarthy for authorizing a budget proposal that would increase the number of deputies slightly and approve pay boosts and salary modifications that could help address a longstanding problem: recruiting and retaining officers both for law enforcement and running the county detention center.

Escalating numbers of violent acts against law enforcement officers nationwide, as well as the murder of a corrections officer in Delaware recently, make it that much harder to recruit and keep qualified officers, Adams said.

Adams is asking the County Council to approve a Fiscal 2018 budget with total operating expenses of $22.1 million, an increase of $750,463 or 3.5 percent over the current budget year. That figure covers all three units of the Sheriff’s operations: law enforcement, the detention center, and community corrections.

The new budget calls for hiring three additional deputies, with one assigned to the sex offender monitoring unit, one for the street-level crimes unit, and one for security at the county administration building. In addition, the community corrections unit would hire an officer to expand a pilot program to supervise electronic monitoring of low-risk detainees as a cheaper alternative to keeping prisoners in jail. When not needed for that duty, the officer could fill-in for corrections officers at the jail.

The Sheriff’s office currently has a “sworn” deputy force of 95, and the new deputy positions would bring that tally to 98. But Cecil County should have at least 130 deputies to meet state and national standards, Adams told Cecil Times. Proportionate to population, Cecil County falls far short of most other counties in Maryland in the number of deputies employed, he told the Council. The budget includes “step” pay increases for deputies of 2 percent, similar to other county employees in the new budget proposal.

The Sheriff’s office has been doing “live shooter” training for groups around the county, to educate citizens on how to react to a potential violent incident in a public space. The training session at the county administration building, including members of the County Council, “scared the hell out of them,” a knowledgeable source told Cecil Times, and Council members urged assignment of a deputy to the county building to boost security. The administration building has no metal detectors and only instituted a “sign-in sheet” for visitors about a year ago.

Adams said there is currently only one officer assigned to monitor 250 to 300 registered sex offenders and another deputy is needed. And the street-level crimes unit—a key factor in gathering intelligence and being a presence in crime-ridden areas—would add one deputy to a three-member unit of both undercover and uniformed officers.

County Councilor Dan Schneckenburger (R-3) questioned Adams about overtime pay costs for deputies, and asked if he could “creep it down.”

Adams replied that he thought he had indeed “creeped it down” from past years’ $430,000 figure to about $291,000, largely due to a scheduling change for deputies that he instituted. According to the budget documents, Adams is asking for the same figure for overtime pay for patrol deputies in the new budget– $291,473—as in the current budget.

Council President Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2) asked the Sheriff “how’s your retention rate” for public safety staff.

“It’s horrible in detention,” Adams admitted, saying there was about a 25 percent turnover rate per year and that there were currently 8 vacancies at the jail. In an effort to correct that problem, Adams’ budget would boost pay by 6 percent for corrections officers with five years’ experience in a bid to keep experienced staff from leaving to go to other agencies with higher pay scales. He said he really needs an additional three corrections officers but did not ask for that addition in his budget because he could not realistically expect to fill those slots when he is already short-handed at the facility.

“It’s not a pleasant job working in detention,” Adams said, noting the negative behavior problems of inmates that is often directed against officers.

The detention center budget would actually decline by 2.1 percent, to $7.8 million in the new budget, in comparison with the current budget year.

Under questioning from Schneckenburger, Adams said his proposal to add a corrections officer to supervise and expand a pilot program for electronic monitoring of people assigned to the community corrections unit would achieve a net cost savings. He said that it costs $95 a day to incarcerate a prisoner but just $6 a day for electronic monitoring.

Councilor Jackie Gregory (R-5) inquired how effective is a new program to offer Vivitrol, a medication that blocks the “high” of illegal drugs for 30 days, to inmates as they leave the detention center.

Adams said that an educational session about the program—which Cecil County was only the second jail in the state to initiate—was recently offered to female prisoners and about half signed up for the program. But he said that as their release date approaches, some inmates drop out as they realize they will be required to participate in drug treatment and counseling programs after their release and they won’t be able to get a “high” from illegal drugs.

There are about four cases of long-term success of getting people off drugs after their release from jail, and six active post-release people in treatment through the county Health Department. While the program is quite new, Adams said he is “still whole-heartedly behind the program.”

Contrary to a published report in a local print newspaper with an online presence, Adams’ budget is NOT increasing by 7.6 percent. In fact, the total operating budget for all three components of the Sheriff’s Office is proposed to rise by just 3.5 percent over the current budget year, according to county budget documents.

For the law enforcement component, the budget—with three new deputy positions—would rise by 7.4 percent, from $10.9 to $11.7 million. For the detention center, operating costs would decline by 2.1 percent, from $8 million to $7.8 million. And the community corrections component would rise by 4.8 percent, after addition of a new staffer to expand electronic monitoring of some inmates—thus saving money on the detention side of the equation.


*(Sad Note: There has been one murder of a Cecil County Sheriff’s Office employee, according to the Officer Down Memorial. That was Sheriff J. Myron Miller, who was shot to death by a jail inmate in 1912.)

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