A criminal investigator employed by Wal-Mart. A Harford County Public Library children’s librarian. The head coach of the Fallston High School boys soccer team, and one of his former students. A veterinary technician originally from Australia. The sheriff’s wife. And two Dagger contributors.
These local residents were among the 36 participants in the 18th class of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office’s Citizens Police Academy, which kicked off Tuesday night at the agency’s Northern Precinct in Jarrettsville.
The eclectic group consisted of 20 men and 16 women spanning virtually all adult age groups and professions, and hailed from every corner of the county. But in introductions to the group, each expressed a desire to learn more about the Harford County Sheriff’s Office’s practices, standards and practices.
In the course of 15 sessions this spring, they—-along with Dagger contributing editor Aaron Cahall and entertainment writer Mark Elloff—-will receive an education in the various police operations of one of the state’s largest county police agencies. The schedule includes a look inside the Harford County Detention Center, a trip to the Sheriff’s Office Broadcreek Firearms Range, and a tour of the new Southern Precinct as well as presentations about the HCSO’s various bureaus and divisions.
The academy began with a lecture on the history and fundamentals of the agency presented by Sheriff Jesse Bane, followed by an outline of its organizational structure presented by Major Dale Stonesifer.
Among the information presented:
–Bane said some historical research indicates the judicial role of the sheriff stretches back to Saxon England in the early 10th century. But he added that the job may have been around much longer than that, before opening a Bible and reading from Daniel 3:2:
“Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” (American King James Version)
–The first local jail, Bane said, in the original county seat of Bushtown was in the basement of a building in the area. “The first floor was a bar,” Bane said. “And I won’t go into what happened on the second floor.” He added later that, early in his career, he once met a man who claimed to be Henry Harford VIII, a descendant of the man for which the county is named.
–Great trivia question: according to common law, Bane said there was only one local official with the power to arrest the sheriff.
“His wife?” one class member quipped.
“Sometimes I think she has that power,” Bane replied, drawing a laugh in the back row of the classroom from his wife, Lou Ann, who is participating in the academy this year. After years of hearing about the program from her husband, Lou Ann said she decided to check it out, and sat with two other women whose husbands had likewise been members of the agency.
So who can arrest the sheriff? It’s not the state’s attorney, nor the governor, nor the state police. It’s the county coroner.
Though no individual currently holds that position, Stonesifer said later, under modern law the sheriff can be the subject of charging documents and be arrested in the same way as any member of the public.
–The new expansion of the Harford County Detention Center only recently began handling its first inmates, but Bane warned that the facility is projected to reach capacity by 2020 and there is no way to further expand it outward on the existing parcel of land.
He said it could be possible to expand upward, and add levels to part of the existing facility. But that could not be done while inmates occupied that section, meaning construction would have to begin in the very near future. Bane said that there’s no money to do so at the moment, and that the public could be hesitant to approve a further expansion to the jail “when the one you just built isn’t even full yet.”
The alternative, he said, would be to construct a new facility elsewhere in county—a proposition that would almost certainly trigger a heated debate.
“Lord have mercy on whoever the sheriff, county executive and county council is when it comes time to decide where to put the new jail,” he said.
–According to numbers Bane presented, as of July 1, 2011, the starting salaries of a new, certified Harford County Sheriff’s Office law enforcement recruit was $42,973 per year, while a corrections recruit started at $39,166. An individual obtaining a lateral transfer into a law enforcement position with the HCSO from another agency would make between $45,365 to $57,429 per year, while a corrections officer “lateralling” into the agency would make between $40,206 to $50,918 per year.
However, Bane said the department has hired very few individuals transferring from another law enforcement agency “since the economic downturn began.”
Next week: Major Christina Presberry details the operations of her Police Services Bureau.