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Eyler talks about challenges facing police

(3/6) Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler will be the first person to tell you that his department is facing some challenges. His department, which is budgeted for 12 officers has only five on the street. One more is being trained at the police academy, one is on extended sick leave, one is on administrative leave facing charges of serving alcohol to minors and one recently resigned after being accused of violating a general order.

“We’re going to move forward,” Eyler recently told a group of citizens at a meeting of the Thurmont Economic Development Commission. “We’re not going to let this last incident tear us down. Sometimes you have to tear something down in order to rebuild it and we’re going to rebuild.”

Eyler believes the department has come a long way since he came on two years ago. His officers are interacting more with the community and the town is doing more for recruitment and retention.

“My expectation for them is that I want them to be professional,” Eyler said.

However, as the recent headlines show, his department is still facing some challenges. One of those challenges is recruiting enough good officers to fill the open positions. During a recent application process, 17 people applied, but only one made it through the process to go to the police academy.

“I’m not going to lower my standards just to put people on the streets,” Eyler said.

He said he has had some interest from police officers retiring from other agencies like Westminister, Baltimore County and Howard County in relocating to Thurmont and starting a second career. Also, Eyler is planning to fill his open lieutenant position from outside the department to get someone with experience.

For the time being, Eyler has restructured the work shifts to try and ensure coverage. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has also provided limited coverage to fill holes in the work schedules.

Besides recruitment and retention of officers. Eyler said politics are challenging the department with town officials who are seeking to micromanage the police department, which is not their responsibility.

The police department has been criticized by some officials and residents for seeking a new, larger police station.

“It’s not too big,” Eyler said. “It fits the needs of the department. It’s 8100 square feet and it’s going to serve us for many, many years.”

Eyler said another challenge is changing the attitude of residents from a “small town mentality” of people who can leave their homes unlocked. He also is working to change residents’ opinions of his police department, particularly in the wake of the bad press it has received.

“To be honest with you, there are still people out there who say we are a bunch of rejects,” Eyler said.

He argues that that is not the case. His officers are trained just as officers in larger departments are, but his officers are expected to do more because his department is smaller.

“We don’t have anything really specialized,” Eyler said. “When an officer gets a call, they have to handle everything.”

And they will. Eyler plans to make sure his men and women serve Thurmont and protect its citizens.

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