From Jeffrey R. Gahler:
Dear Harford County Readers,
The mission statement for the Office of the Sheriff for Harford County asserts the Office protects the rights and dignity of all citizens and that the Office is honest, fair and strong of character. I write here to demonstrate that the Office, under the leadership of Sheriff Bane, fails to live up to these statements. During my campaign, I have consistently stressed that as your Sheriff, I will be honest, fair and strong of character starting with the courageous and dedicated members of the Sheriff’s Office. The citizens and members of the Sheriff’s Office must be confident that discipline is consistently applied with the highest degree of ethics and fairness. To this end, I have strongly suggested the use of a disciplinary matrix when addressing misconduct within the Sheriff’s Office. The matrix ensures similar acts of misconduct are addressed the same regardless of the employee or the employee’s connection, or lack of, with the Sheriff or his command staff thus protecting the rights and dignity of our public servants.
A disciplinary matrix is common in professional law enforcement agencies today. In short, a disciplinary matrix consists of a process, with pre-established penalties that coincide with violations of law or specific policies by employees. The process can address any infraction, with sanctions ranging from counseling up to termination. The penalty applied is based on the seriousness of the offense. The benefits to such a system are important to the fair and equitable application of discipline and preclude penalties being imposed in a biased manner, based solely on personal and political motivation.
Since taking office, Sheriff Bane has repeatedly demonstrated his inability or unwillingness to treat the men and women who courageously serve the citizens of Harford County equally. Sheriff Bane has gone above and beyond to protect those in the Sheriff’s Office viewed as his political supporters while working equally hard to persecute those in the Office not recognized as part of his political base. Discipline applied to supporters for major indiscretions consistently pales in comparison to that applied to non-supporters.
As a reminder of inequities, Sheriff Bane promoted a political supporter and documented donor to a command level position and later, after being indicted for a number of criminal offenses related to a theft scheme, retained this member of his “at will” Command Staff at tax payers’ expense for the better part of a year after the law allowed administrative action to include dismissal. Many may recall this case finally made the news the day after the last election and its suspicious timing secured Sheriff Bane another term in office. Timing and transparency appeared suspicious, but let the reader be the judge.
On the other side of the coin, we watched as respected and qualified members of the Sheriff’s Office were denied promotion after they were deemed most qualified by an outside and independent promotional board convened by Sheriff Bane. In one case, Harford County lost a proven detective and police officer to an early retirement because of Sheriff Bane’s unequal, unfair and biased practices.
Most recently, Sheriff Bane dismissed a female deputy who was viewed as not politically supportive. The administrative case leading to the termination came after the deputy exercised her first amendment right to free speech and questioned the aforementioned unfair promotional practices by Sheriff Bane. Utilizing administrative wrangling available due to the lack of fair and equitable policies prohibiting same, Sheriff Bane exercised a provision in the law and with significant bias far exceeded the original recommended penalty offered by the Sheriff and a penalty later suggested by an independent board convened by the Sheriff himself. I make no attempt to explain away the original actions of the Deputy or to excuse the Sheriff from his responsibilities except to say that this case proves the need for a disciplinary matrix to ensure all members are treated consistently and fairly and that politics and bias do not play a role in the application of law.
I have made it very clear that discipline and integrity within a law enforcement agency is an essential part of the professionalism citizens expect and deserve from their Sheriff’s Office. Discipline and termination for cause will, when I’m the Sheriff of Harford County, have a role in the maintenance of a professional organization. When the severity of the offense merits it, I will support its use without bias and political motivation. Doing the right thing for the right reason and at the right time will be my only compass and discipline will follow established policy and procedures. Political motivation and an uneven field have no room in the leadership of a professional organization. Structural leadership deficiencies should not and will not be protected or dismissed by way of discipline against employees.
Jeffrey R. Gahler
2014 Republican Candidate for Harford County Sheriff