From Jeffrey R. Gahler:
Dear Harford County Readers,
A great many Harford County citizens and taxpayers have contacted me recently with questions and comments concerning the newly formed helicopter unit within the Office of the Sheriff. I am impressed with the interest and insight this topic has brought to bear and am determined to learn and understand the reasoning Sheriff Bane used to create and justify this program. I am also encouraged by the interest of many who are intent to uncover why the taxpayers were the last to know about such a dramatic and potentially expensive addition to the Office of the Sheriff.
Let me be clear, I too have many questions surrounding the helicopter program announced by the incumbent and question his motivation and priorities because his job is to employ evidence-based policing to build effective and economical efforts to keep our citizens and communities safe and secure. If this were the case, Sheriff Bane would have been proud to address and engage the public during every stage of the planning and implementation of this helicopter program.
Since 2010, the Sheriff held countless public appearances and not once has he presented any information on the project to the public. His lack of transparency gives me, as a taxpayer, great pause and, as a Candidate for Sheriff of Harford County, great concern. By his own admission, Sheriff Bane has been looking at this program since 2010 and, in all that time, failed the public by not including room for citizen input.
Maryland is home to one of, if not the most, premier helicopter programs in the world. This publicly funded, fully operational aviation program, operated by the Maryland State Police, is always at the ready to serve all the jurisdictions of this State and, should their helicopters be committed elsewhere, there are sufficient “back up” services from other aviation programs to include, but not limited to, the Baltimore County Police Department, the United States Park Police, or the Pennsylvania State Police, to meet Harford County’s needs. Based on this fact, I would be opposed to any use of the limited budgeted funds to initiate this program when there are so many critical issues that continue to be unaddressed by this Sheriff.
Information concerning how Sheriff Bane will financially support and sustain his helicopter program, without diverting any funding from existing responsibilities, is also concerning. I am not a supporter of forward funding projects with “asset forfeiture monies,” which he claims will be his method to fully fund the program. The goal of public safety should not be to seize a preordained amount of money needed to institute or continue a desired program. The goal must always be to target crime, arrest the offender and provide for a safe and secure environment for our families and friends. Asset forfeiture monies that result in this order should be spent to support the fight on crime, not the other way around. Money seizures to support a preordained program held hostage to this potential funding is not fiscally responsible. I am not saying there is, or has been, any such motivation of this sort here in Harford County; just that it is a pathway that led to serious problems and poor public perception of many police departments around the country and jeopardizing the public trust is something that should never be endangered.
In an effort to address my questions and those of many people who have put their trust in me, I have begun to acquire information pertaining to Sheriff Bane’s helicopter program. I am pursuing interviews and requests for records thru the Public Information Act to include, but not limited to, the Office of the Sheriff for Harford County, the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore County Police Department. Upon receipt and review of this information, I believe that I will be better positioned and informed to assess Sheriff Bane’s helicopter program, claims made by the Sheriff and to address those engaged citizens of Harford County.
I realize there are many who have worked hard to bring the Aviation Unit into existence and out of respect for those members, I am hopeful that Sheriff Bane’s assertions regarding the entire program are accurate. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the commitment and dedication of the women and men of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. I applaud the great work done every day.
Jeffrey R. Gahler
2014 Republican Candidate for Harford County Sheriff