Requests for additional uniformed officers presented by the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office were granted Tuesday by a majority of the county commissioners.
In a joint memo from Sheriff Mike Evans (R), Assistant Sheriff Col. Dave McDowell and Calvert Detention Center Administrator Thomas D. Reece, a request was made to add one new corrections deputy to staff the local district court’s holding cell area, effective on Jan. 1.
“We discussed this before COVID hit,” Evans told the commissioners.
The joint memo stated, “in December 2019, the district court advised the detention center of the mandated requirement of an additional corrections deputy in a second full-time courtroom.”
Sheriff’s office administrators said the added corrections deputy would provide supervision for the “prisoner holding area located between the two courtrooms.”
An additional $34,917 in funding is needed for the corrections deputy, per the county’s department of finance and budget.
A motion was made to grant the allocation. During discussion, Commissioner Earl “Buddy” Hance (R) stated the board had previously decided to delay all budget items until early 2021.
Commissioner Thomas “Tim” Hutchins (R) stressed that district court officials had mandated the new correctional deputy position.
The motion to approve the request passed 4-to-1, with Hance opposed.
Next, the board considered Evans’ request to add nine full-time merit deputies and two civilian positions — a budget analyst and a full-time public information program manager. Evans indicated the new deputies would be hired in February and start in March. Hutchins, who served with the Maryland State Police and was the agency’s superintendent during the Ehrlich Administration, wanted to consider the requests in separate motions.
The sheriff explained his office has 130 sworn officers with most paid by the county as merit employees while others are grant-funded.
In a memo to the commissioners, Evans stated the nine new deputies “will be allocated to patrol squads to maintain staffing numbers consistent with bureau staffing studies.”
“It’s a budget issue for me,” said Hance, who indicated he wasn’t going to support the request. Noting the request required $880,127 for the remainder of fiscal 2021, Hance added, “if you’re going to make an impact that large you have to have the total picture.”
Hance warned that a significant revenue drop is forecast for the county by fiscal 2023.
“We’re going to be in the red before we know it,” Hance said.
“There’s an attrition rate,” Hutchins responded, adding that long-serving deputies retire and create vacancies among the ranks. “It takes time to replace those positions. It’s a unique occupation and you can’t just plug in and play.”
Commissioner Vice President Mike Hart (R) declared that “public safety has been my number one priority.” Hart called Calvert’s reputation as a relatively safe county “an economic driver.”
On the subject of recruiting deputies for hire in anticipation of retirements, Hart stated, “it does take time to get them ready. You have to be prepared.”
“I wish I had more information,” said Commissioner Steven Weems (R), who asked Evans if he could provide “some kind of structure” that could be conveyed to taxpayers to justify the additional hires in the middle of a fiscal year.
“I won’t put a price tag on public safety,” said Commissioner President Kelly McConkey (R).
Both Hance and Weems affirmed that they, too, had great respect for local law enforcement; nevertheless, they sustained their opposition to the staff request.
The commissioners passed a motion 3-2 to hire the nine new deputies; however, they voted to defer any decision on the two new civilian positions for the sheriff’s office.