Town considers hiring deputies
(10/6/2004) Thurmont town officials have asked the Frederick County
Sheriff's Office for information about using resident deputies to temporarily
fill shortages in the town's police department.
The Thurmont Police Department is understaffed by five officers, and has
only been able to hire one officer in about a year, despite numerous attempts.
Resident deputies are used in some municipalities that do not have their own
police departments. The officers would be contracted by the town and report to
the town on police activity, but would still be employees of the Frederick
County Sheriff's Office.
All six Thurmont police officers signed a six-page letter that called the
staffing problem a "crisis," and sent it to the town mayor and commissioners
last week. Police Chief Terry N. Frushour did not sign it.
The letter, obtained by The Gazette, condemns the decision to hire two
resident deputies at a cost of $170,000 per year.
"At the end of the year ... the department will still be facing the same
problems it has now regarding adequate facility and competitive salaries," the
The officers suggested that recruiting and retaining new officers would be
more successful than hiring deputies. The letter suggests the town increase
officers' pay, and improve the department's space and the officers' working
A recruit's starting salary in Thurmont is around $26,000, according to a
pay scale chart in the letter.
Town officials have discussed openly during the last year many failed
attempts to hire new officers to the town department.
The officers' letter states that 54 applications were received and four
major attempts to hire police officers were made in the last year. Of those
attempts, only one successful hire resulted. A few others are still in the
Mayor Martin Burns, who said he has seen the letter, said the board agrees
that the situation is a crisis, which is why the commissioners decided to
pursue resident deputies.
Burns said the department will continue to be without five officers for at
least eight months, which is how long it will take to train new officers and
get them on the streets.
Looking into hiring sheriff's deputies was not intended to threaten the
officers' job security, but rather to help them in a time when they are
swamped, he said. It would allow them to take vacation time, get training and
go to court without leaving the department more short-handed than it already
But in the end, Burns said he didn't care if the officers were upset because
the decision was made to protect the town, which is the board's responsibility.
Commissioner Ronald Terpko said the town's Police Commission is working on
facilities concerns for the department, and will consider salary and benefits
questions later. He said the board did not intend to replace any town officers
with the deputies, but only fill a temporary void.
"I think some people are just jumping the gun. As a board of commissioners,
we are responsible for providing a police department to the town. Attempts have
failed throughout the years. Even if the income and salaries were increased
tomorrow, it would almost take a year to get a new officer in," Terpko said.
"Everyone thinks things can be done overnight and they can't, unfortunately."
Terpko said that as far as he knows there has been no discussion about
replacing the department with sheriff's deputies. Burns said he would not
entertain the question because any decisions of that nature were about
personnel, and were therefore protected communications.
Frederick County Sheriff James Hagy (R) said he understands why the Thurmont
officers would be concerned about their livelihood, and even expressed concerns
to Thurmont Chief Frushour about that when they spoke recently.
But Hagy said those fears could be allayed. Because the two departments have
worked closely over the years and he and Frushour have known each other for so
long, he thinks the relationship could be worked out on a temporary basis.
He said his office would do whatever it can to help the town.
"It will require a lot of planning and conversation, of course, but I
believe it's doable. I've known Terry [Frushour] ... a very long time and it
helps to have that kind of relationship," he said.