Now that Frederick’s city elections are behind us and as we adjust our sights and focus on the upcoming 2022 contest, all of us would be better served by starting the new electoral season off discussing policy differences in honest, truthful terms and avoid misleading rhetoric intended to stir emotions and deceive the voting population.

The current sheriff, who in a Jan. 26 speech before the Frederick County Conservative Club characterized the COVID pandemic, that has now killed over 700,000 Americans and was the most common cause of death among law enforcement officers in 2020, as the biggest fraud ever played. He also stated the 2020 presidential election “was stolen” in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

During a July endorsement speech in support of the Republican candidate for Frederick County executive, the sheriff said that the Democratic candidates for county executive, Kai Hagen and Jessica Fitzwater, if elected, will create a county police department in place of the sheriff’s office.

A search of available literature from the Hagen and Fitzwater campaigns resulted in no findings or mention of a county police department, the sheriff’s office or the sheriff.

The county executive cannot unilaterally form a county police department. A county police department can be created by amending the County Charter or through an ordinance passed by the county council, not at the whim of a county executive.

It is understandable that the sheriff is more than a bit sensitive when it comes to the topic of a county police department. Many citizens who have been dissatisfied with the sheriff during his tenure have called for such a change, yet his knowledge on the topic seems to be limited.

Out of Maryland’s 23 counties only five have county police departments. Only about 2 percent of the nation’s over 3,000 counties have county police departments. The last time a Maryland county moved to a county police department for local law enforcement services was in 1952 when the Howard County Police Department was created. The first was Baltimore County in 1874.

When there is dissatisfaction with a sheriff, as there is here in Frederick County, those favoring a county police department and an appointed police chief generally focus on specific policies, political influence or extremism and professional qualifications as the issues justifying change.

When it comes to qualifications, a candidate for sheriff only need be 25 years of age, a resident of Maryland for the previous five years and a resident of the county in which they run for office. This represents a glaring contrast from the minimum qualifications generally seen for a contemporary police chief that include higher education, extensive training and years of relevant experience.

The office of sheriff was established in the state constitution and would not disappear if a county police department were created. Its mission would change and its responsibilities would be reduced. The sheriff would still run the jail, transport prisoners, provide courthouse security and serve civil and criminal process.

At this time of political turmoil, we don’t need politicians, candidates, and their supporters tossing a red herring like the formation of a county police department into the already churning political waters.

There are plenty of legitimate policy issues to discuss in the race for county executive including budgets, land use, housing, health care, and serving an aging population to name a few. They are all opportunities to present opposing views.

An informed voter will be better served by candidates and their supporters when policy differences are discussed in honest, truthful terms without misleading rhetoric intended to stir emotions and deceive.

Karl Bickel, formerly second in command of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and former assistant professor of criminal justice is retired from the U.S. Department of Justice and writes from Monrovia. He can be reached at KarlBickel@comcast.net. Bickel has previously run unsuccessfully against Chuck Jenkins for sheriff.

(21) comments

DickD

Karl, I hope you are rignt about Kai and Jessica wanting a County police force, as I do too. It is one way of making sure that the County Police Force is the best possible with the qualifications you mention. Our present Sheriff doesn't have them and it has caused the County problems. If we do go to a County Police force, the Sheriff's Department would be small and still report to the State. The County Police force would be almost as large as it is today and answerable to the County. I am all for it! The County pays the Sheriff's salary as it would in the future, but that pay would be much less, while the Police Chief of the County Police would be about the same.

LET'S DO IT!

KarlBickel

Dick, my point is that in the County Executive race the creation of a county police department is not an issue. The power to create a county police department is with the Council not the Executive.

DickD

I know, but I would like a County Police force, it would take the politics out of electing the Sheriff for the actual police duties. Besides, Frederick County pays for the Sheriff's wages and in the case of law suits it is the County attorney that must defend the County and pay any damages. It is ridiculous to have the Sheriff reporting to the State, when they are not responsible for any wages or damages, along with defending the County.

Plumbum

I too desire and support a countypoki e force. To e to have true professional le enforcement leadership, not the Avalon’s token drunk bar patron.

eak1969123

When I saw the headline, my reaction was, oh, Mr. Bickel is finally writing about something other than his obsessive disdain for Sheriff Jenkins. Perhaps worth the read. Alas, by the second paragraph is was the same old diatribe. I will just skip future columns.

Plumbum

doubt you will

threecents

It would be nice if our sheriff did not give Karl so much material for that "obsessive disdain".

Plumbum

Exactly

KarlBickel

threecents, this begs the question, given the number of times the sheriff has made statements that are demonstrably false, would he then be an unreliable witness in court? Could a good lawyer use these public statements to impeach or shed doubt on the veracity of his testimony? Given his record of exposing the county to civil litigation, this could potentially be costly.

threecents

Karl, I agree. Covid is getting the attention now, but it seems there is also an even more pernicious crazyness virus going around since about 2016. It makes people see the world upside down.

DickD

Lol, we all hope you will!

TrekMan

Mr. Bickel - it's time to go quietly into that goodnight. You lost, Jenkins won, full stop. The assertion that many county residents are dissatisfied with Sheriff Jenkins is misplaced. He has beaten you numerous times - that says it all. Continuing to pick on Sheriff Jenkins truly shows your insecurities. It's time to let it go. You lost!

TrekMan

One last thing, the only citizens not happy with the Sheriff are the screaming Libby's (like yourself) who want to defund the police anyway.

KarlBickel

TrekMan or should I say anonymous Jenkins supporter. You have actually made my point with this remark. “…the only citizens not happy with the Sheriff are the screaming Libby's (like yourself) who want to defund the police anyway.” Thank you.

TrekMan

And your point is????? There is no point except sour grapes!

KarlBickel

TrekMan Since you asked, the point mentioned in the first paragraph is “all of us would be better served by starting the new electoral season off discussing policy differences in honest, truthful terms and avoid misleading rhetoric intended to stir emotions and deceive the voting population.” Thanks again for permitting me the chance to clarify things for you.

threecents

Karl shoots... He scores.

Hayduke2

Great response Karl.

Plumbum

And Karl prevails!

heard that slap clear over here!

phydeaux994

TrekMan, you’re in a hole, stop digging. You’re embarrassing yourself. Peace.✌️😷

threecents

Minimum qualifications for sheriff? Yes, please!

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