From Jeffrey R. Gahler, candidate for Harford County Sheriff:
Recently, I attended the July meeting of the Edgewood Community Council and listened with great interest as many members spoke about the good and bad things that are accepted as commonplace in the Edgewood/Joppatowne Community. Those in attendance included a few citizens concerned with the increasing violence in their community and many were political representatives, including the meeting’s main speaker, County Executive David Craig, there to offer their support and insight on working to address the needs of the area.
During the meeting, Sheriff Bane used his time to discuss the continued increase in criminal activity in the Edgewood area and stated that over the last “couple of months”, his Office has lost its “grip” on the area. After conceding to the rise in crime (which, by the way, is occurring in more than just the Edgewood area), Sheriff Bane seemed to point a finger of blame and admonish the citizens of Edgewood for not attending his hastily scheduled and poorly advertised summer crime initiative meeting the week prior. According to Sheriff Bane’s own words, only two residents of the community, experiencing the most recent troubles, attended the meeting.
What was surprising to Sheriff Bane was not surprising to me. After weeks of planning, Sheriff Bane announced his summer initiative and touted the most vital component of it being community involvement, but the weeks of planning for this most vital component did not include a meeting date, time or location. This critical information came a day or so later and was not widely received, so much so that many still have not learned that this important meeting has already occurred. The day finally chosen for this vital community meeting was the evening of July 3rd, the night before a major holiday and one of the busiest travel days of the year. As I said, I am not surprised by the poor turn out from the community, but unlike Sheriff Bane, I don’t find fault with the community, but rather with a lack of inclusion and effective planning by the Sheriff. Sheriff Bane continued on before the Edgewood Community Council, but presented very little substance when outlining his actual plan which he proudly touted had been under construction for weeks.
Sheriff Bane’s effort in launching his summer initiative fell flat on his first and admittedly most critical step – citizen involvement. Such meetings, after losing control for months, are not productive or effective. Community meetings must be timely, provide accurate information and address proactive, not reactive, efforts to ensure the safety of our friends and neighbors. The community must be part of the discussion as issues are identified and addressed, not spoken to after control is lost. I am happy to commit to the Edgewood/Joppatowne Communities and all of Harford County that as your next Sheriff, such vital meetings will take place with the community before control is lost and at a time convenient to you and not one conveniently scheduled around political appearances.
Sheriff Bane closed out his comments with more politics by pointing out we are entering the election season and made note that one of his political opponents has criticized him for concentrating too much on the Edgewood Community. I have very little doubt that this assertion was directed at me as we have seen (and continue to see) from Sheriff Bane, misdirection, inaction and half-truths as the only things he has brought to bear. Unfortunately Sheriff Bane, when he left the focus of the meeting, let it be known that the meeting was for his political agenda, not for the right reason – safety. To be clear, I have made a point to say that in order to be successful in combating the criminal element in Harford County; the sole focus cannot be isolated to the Edgewood area alone. As Sheriff, I will police the entire county with the same unwavering vigor and determination. The Edgewood/Joppatowne areas comprise nearly ten percent of the County’s population and it is clear that this area will always require more of the services of County Government, to include law enforcement, based on sheer population. I do not believe, and I suspect many residents in these areas agree with me, that much of the crime in the area is not perpetrated in a vacuum. Strong influence from other areas contribute to the disorder. This has been my consistent statement concerning Edgewood and a statement that Sheriff Bane has unfortunately chosen to reword to suit his agenda.
I believe the men and women of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office are committed law enforcement professionals and know that they care for all of our citizens. What is missing is a leader who is respected by the rank and file and who understands that since the Office of Sheriff is a political position, there needs to be a credible police leader who understands politics, not the politician who thinks he understands law enforcement as is the current condition. For those open minded citizens, who want timely, effective and proactive law enforcement in Harford County, I ask you to follow the campaign closely, look at the issues and contact me should you have specific questions on the issues facing Harford County.
Jeffrey R. Gahler
2014 Republican Candidate for Harford County Sheriff