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About 20 show up for first
 ‘Meet the Chief’ night

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(2/2) Thurmont’s new Police Chief Greg Eyler on Tuesday held his first ‘‘Meet the Chief Night." About 20 residents attended the meeting, but many were police commission members or family members of the officers.

Eyler hopes to meet monthly with town residents so they can get to know local police officers and express concerns about crime in the community.

Eyler said he hoped more residents would come to future meetings to share ideas about how to increase safety and learn more about how the Thurmont Police Department operates.

‘‘I want to try to do this every month to try to generate some innovative programs for the Town of Thurmont," Eyler said. ‘‘You guys are the eyes and ears out there."

Eyler began the meeting by introducing the department’s police officers and staff, and reading a short biography on each of them.

There are now nine officers on the town’s police department including Sgt. Shawn R. Tyler, Sgt. Michael A. Figgins, Officer First Class Christopher A. McLoughlin and Officers Seth A. Ambrose, Mark Debord, Bradley Koenig, Bill Murray and DiAnne Tackett.

The department needs three more officers to be fully staffed, and has had recruitment and retention problems due to what Eyler said was a low starting salary of about $26,000, and a cramped working environment.

Eyler said he hoped to increase the salary to attract qualified officers. The town’s plans for building a new police building would also help attract staff, he said.

The department now has a 10th officer in training. Eyler said he would hold off on hiring two additional officers until he found qualified applicants rather than trying to fill the positions quickly with employees that might not understand the job’s obligations, and are ‘‘just interested in the gun and the badge."

‘‘We are trying to recruit people through career fairs and schools," Eyler said. ‘‘Right now we’re accept the applications, but I’m not going to lower standards to hire anybody."

In addition, Eyler updated residents on the town’s progress in constructing a new police building. During December, county staff told town officials the cost estimate for a joint town and county police building had increased significantly since they proposed the project in August. Since then, Eyler and town officials have sent out four proposals to architects for a building independent of the county, which Eyler said he expected to come back on Tuesday.

‘‘We’re not going to spend over $3 million," Eyler said. ‘‘That is a guarantee."

In addition to updating residents on police department issues, Eyler said he wanted to use the monthly meetings to update residents on future plans for the department.

During the meeting, Eyler outlined seven goals for the town’s police department. They include:

  • Increasing the department’s law enforcement capabilities in an effort to prevent and curtail crime
  • Providing town residents with cost effective, professional law enforcement
  • Expanding and enhancing the department’s commitment to the philosophy of Community Oriented Policing and community based problem solving
  • Developing and maintaining the highest level of leadership and accountability
  • Developing methods to improve the department’s efficiency and productivity
  • Promoting public confidence in the Thurmont Police Department’s function
  • Become an accredited agency

‘‘The big goal is to make this one of the best departments around," Eyler said.

Drugs, juvenile crime, and disputes between neighbors in Thurmont are among the concerns Eyler said residents have raised and that he welcomed input from the community on.

While the town once had several neighborhood watch systems in place, they have all become deactivated, Eyler said. He promised to look into getting neighborhood watches back on track. In addition, Eyler said he was looking into having foot and bike patrols in town, and in the future might acquire a K-9 unit.

Town business owners recently received brochures offering tips for how to prevent robberies, and what to do in case they were robbed.

John and Betty Brown, who own Brown’s Jewelers in downtown Thurmont, said as business owners whose shop has been robbed several times and whose home has been robbed once, they had a ‘‘vested interest in coming to the meeting." Two police officers hand delivered a brochure to them over the weekend.

John Brown complimented Eyler and the department on what he said looked like an increased police effort to patrol the community.

‘‘Being uptown all the time, I’ve seen more police action uptown than I have in a long time," Brown said.

Resident John Kinnaird, who is the vice chairman of the Thurmont Economic Development Committee, and is in charge of the town’s Web site, also attended the meeting.

‘‘I think this is a great first step," Kinnaird said. ‘‘When I first came to town, there was only one police officer here. Now there are nine. I think this is very commendable."

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