Nearly 17 years after finalizing its first–and, to date, only–strategic plan, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office has begun updating, revising, and expanding that document to provide what Sheriff Jesse Bane called a “road map” for the future.
Bane said Thursday that the process, which could take up to a year, would engage “stakeholders” and certain members of the public in identifying ways the agency can better serve the community.
The 26-page 1997 plan, created under Sheriff Joe Meadows and presented below in its entirety, was a “very good plan considering what was going on at the time,” Bane said, but focused largely on crime reduction. The sheriff said the updated plan will likely have an increased focus on issues such as traffic safety, prescription pill abuse, juvenile issues and new technology—as well as alternative ways of acquiring it—among others.
Bane emphasized that the plan was required under agency accreditation standards, and would be guided by the input of members of the public rather than his personal directives.
“It’s time to engage the public,” he said. “This agency belongs to the people, we need to hear what they want.”
That input will be gained in a series of meetings with selected “stakeholders” including minority leaders, business leaders, neighborhood watch groups, and even a handful of futurists, experts in emerging thinking and trends. However, unlike the sheriff’s series of town hall meetings over the last few years, these forums will not be open to the general public.
Bane said the format will allow the panel to dive deep into issues rather than turn the meetings into “complaint sessions.”
“We’re not looking to take that  document and make a few superficial changes,” Bane said. “It’s not going to be a thing where we sit around and talk and just put that in writing. It’s going to be a lot of behind the scenes planning.”
The revised plan comes at a time of change for both Harford County and the agency. According to Bane, projections indicate that by 2025, the county’s white population will no longer be a majority, but a plurality. At the same time, Bane said the plan must address the sheriff’s role as both the county’s top cop and its senior corrections official.
On the first issue, Bane recalled a 1990s homicide case involving a person of Korean background—one of several Pacific Rim nationalities he said is still growing in the county today. Bane said investigators encountered a culture whose members distrusted police and, “to this day, we do not have lead one in that case.”
“We do not want a situation where people allow a culture of crime to exist because they are afraid to work with us,” he said, pointing to an increased need for deputies both familiar with different cultures and faiths, and those capable of speaking other languages.
The 1997 plan mentions the Harford County Detention Center only in passing, including once in a historical context that includes a description of the “innovative and progressive” direct supervision units—now a fixture of the facility’s operation. The older report also cites an “inability to rehabilitate criminals” under a page-and-a-half long list of “emerging issues.”
Today, Bane said battling that latter issue of recidivism lies at the heart of effective management of the detention center.
“I’m conflicted,” he said. “As the sheriff who is responsible for arresting people who commit crimes, I have to lock them up. As the sheriff who’s also the warden, I have to make sure I’m giving them what they need.”
The planning process will continue through the upcoming election season, during which Bane will face several challengers. The sheriff dismissed the idea that the timing of the strategic plan was political in nature.
“This isn’t my strategic plan, this is the agency’s strategic plan,” Bane said. “It will serve as a guide for whoever may follow me, when I one day leave office.”
“I know I have to run for office—but do I put everything on hold because it’s an election year?” he later added. “The people of Harford County elected me to be sheriff for four years.”