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Thurmont’s top cop ready for challenge

Ingrid Mezo

(12/1) Major Greg Eyler is scheduled to start his first day as chief of the Thurmont Police Department today.

Eyler was to be sworn in as chief at the Senior Citizens Center in Thurmont Wednesday evening, after The Gazette’s press time.

Eyler said his top goals for the department include getting accreditation, working on the recruiting process to attract and retain good staff, and developing a better relationship between town residents and police.

Getting accreditation would mean that the department would have to adhere to a set of standards that would increase its effectiveness and credibility, and would entitle it to receive better equipment and grants, Eyler said. Accreditation would also give the department greater credibility in lawsuits.

‘‘Once you set the standards and meet them, you build public confidence,” Eyler said.

In the past few years, the town considered closing down its police department due to problems maintaining staff members, and replacing the police force with sheriff’s deputies.

Three out of 12 staff positions are currently unfilled. But town residents overwhelmingly supported keeping the town’s police force during a public meeting last January.

Six of the town’s police officers also filed suit against their superiors in the department and the town in July 2003 for alleged violations of the Maryland Constitution and the wiretapping act. A special appeals court ruled to dismiss the suit in September.

Eyler plans to improve the relationship between the town’s police and residents through what he terms ‘‘community policing.” This would involve having officers build relationships with members of the community by getting out of their cars and talking to business owners and attending community meetings such as Lions Club and senior citizens meetings. By developing a more trusting relationship with residents, the department will establish contacts that could prove helpful in investigations, Eyler said.

‘‘Once you foster partnerships, the community becomes your eyes and ears,” he said.

Eyler also plans to offer more leadership training opportunities for supervisors and to heighten their responsibility for the actions of staff members whom they oversee.

‘‘I hope to develop and maintain the highest level of leadership and accountability by having supervisors held accountable for what personnel do,” Eyler said.

In addition, Eyler hopes to attract more recruits to the police department and retain qualified staff members by increasing officers’ salaries. Eyler also envisions enlarging the staff in the next few years.

While Eyler said he was unsure of how much officers in the town’s police department are getting paid now, he indicated that salaries were not competitive with neighboring departments, such as those in Westminster, Taneytown, Hagerstown and the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

‘‘[Raising salaries] is not going to be an easy task, and it will be an uphill battle, but it’s something I plan to look into,” Eyler said. ‘‘We did make a commitment to the town to keep the police department, so we have to make it more attractive for people to stay.”

Eyler will replace former Police Chief Terry Frushour, who retired July 17. Lt. Ted Nee has been acting as interim chief for the town’s police force since July 31.

Mayor Martin Burns initially nominated Eyler for the chief’s job in June 2002, after then-Chief Neil Bechtol retired. His nomination was based on the recommendation of a panel of law enforcement officers. But, at the time, three town commissioners wanted to appoint Frushour as chief; he had served on the Thurmont department for more than 20 years.

This time, Thurmont’s commissioners unanimously voted to appoint Eyler as chief.

Eyler and his wife live in Thurmont. He began his police career with the town’s department in March 1979. He transferred to the sheriff’s office in November 1980.

Eyler trained at the Montgomery County Police Academy and graduated from the FBI National Academy in 1994. He attended Millersville State College and Frederick Community College.

Eyler’s son also serves in the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

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