CUMBERLAND — A call for help came even before the newly expanded Allegany County Bureau of Police was able to commence road patrols Thursday afternoon.
Deputy Chief Bobby Dick logged a phone call shortly after 4 p.m. at the county public safety building at Mexico Farms regarding a fatal stabbing on Fayette Street in Cumberland. Officials asked for the help of C3I and one of the bureau’s investigators assigned to the unit. Dick gave the green light for the officer to assist.
And thus the first day of real police work began for the 14 officers, 12 recertified, each of whom held the position of sheriff’s deputy until July 29. That was when the Allegany County commissioners authorized the expansion of the county police force and the hiring of 14 officers.
Three officers were expected to begin road patrols between 6 p.m. and midnight Thursday. Two more were to cover the shift between midnight and 8 a.m.
The officers currently are to temporarily patrol in unmarked vehicles. As soon as next week, they will be driving battleship-grey cruisers with reflective black lettering of “County Police” on the front and back doors of both sides of the sedan, “Allegany County” above the front wheel wells, “Emergency 911” just behind the rear wheel wells and “Bureau of Police” on the tip of the hood. A Bureau of Police logo will be situated behind both rear passenger windows.
The commissioners said they were backed into a corner after Sheriff David Goad refused to communicate with county staff and overrun his budget on an annual basis. Goad countered that his office was consistently underfunded and set up for failure.
On Thursday afternoon at Mexico Farms, however, that — and a settlement in Allegany County District Court reached Wednesday — hardly mattered. Officers talked excitedly as they inventoried equipment transferred from the sheriff’s office. At about 4 p.m., three officers were just two hours away from beginning the bureau’s first shift on road patrol duty.
“It’s been a difficult situation,” said Dick of the officers, who have been in the middle of the controversy between the commissioners and Goad. “They’ve handled it well. They just want to do police work. They’re cops.”
The commissioners and David Eberly, acting county administrator, made the move because they were convinced the county could conduct road patrols and manage a county police force more efficiently than Goad, who averaged more than $125,000 in budget overruns in each of the past eight years.
Eberly said during Thursday’s commission meeting that the recertification expenses, along with uniform stitching and patrol car painting, is estimated to cost $17,072. Those costs will be covered by anticipated savings from the efficient operations of the county police force, Eberly said.
Chief Gary Moore, a retired lieutenant colonel for the Maryland State Police and a former Federal Emergency Management Agency official, said he has previously been responsible for annual budgets up to $800 million. He “never” has once been over budget, he said Thursday.
What matters, Moore said, is the bottom line at the end of the fiscal year, “not what happens month to month. When we were going to go over, we met with finance (officials and asked for) help or (an) amended budget.”
But the commissioners said it’s just that — a lack of communication in this case — that made them act. Goad’s defiance of the county’s new vehicle take-home policy, implemented in mid-July, was the final straw, they said. Goad, however, maintained that he implemented a cost-savings take-home policy one month prior to the county’s.
Despite the controversy — and Goad’s lawsuit, set for a 3 p.m. hearing today in Washington County — Bill Rudd, county attorney, said during Thursday’s commission meeting that all sides should move forward based on Wednesday’s settlement.
“I hope that’s a new beginning,” Rudd said. “These people will have to work together in the future.”