Md. Sheriff's Union: County's Deputy Shortage Hurts Public Safety

May 27, 2024
"The lack of manpower is an emergent issue for the safety of our members and the community as a whole," said the head of Allegany County Sheriff's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 144.

CUMBERLAND, MD — On average, nearly 80% of counties across the U.S. are safer than Allegany County, which received a "D" in violent and property crime categories from

According to the website, violent crime includes murder, rape, robbery and assault.

Property crime includes arson, theft, vehicle theft and burglary.

To fight crime, "an immediate increase in staffing of uniformed deputies is an absolute necessity," said Christopher Hill, president of Allegany County Sheriff's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 144.

"Lodge members have been consistently making the need for additional deputies clear for several years," he said.

"In 2021, a request was made to increase the minimum staffing from two deputies (per shift) to three," Hill said of the "modest" request. "However, it was denied."

Since that time, crime, particularly violent crime, has continued to climb throughout Allegany County, he said.

Due to the frequency of violent crimes and need to intervene, the lodge asked to meet with county commissioners to discuss and address staffing concerns, Hill said.

"For reasons unclear, the commissioners have declined to meet with FOP leadership to discuss this critical situation, despite repeated requests," he said.

Now, the lodge wants the public's support for 12 additional sworn deputies to be assigned to the uniformed patrol division, of which six would be authorized immediately, and six in fiscal year 2025 as part of a larger commitment to increase staffing, Hill said.

The increased staff would allow for quicker response times to violent situations, lower propensity for conflict between deputies and offenders, enhance opportunities for de-escalation and increase likelihood of a peaceful resolution, he said.

"The lack of manpower is an emergent issue for the safety of our members and the community as a whole," Hill said. "Please let the commissioners know that properly staffing deputies, and frontline medical providers in Allegany County ... is the only option."

Shortage of deputies

According to the FBI, in 2019, the average number of full-time law enforcement officers in the nation's cities was 2.3 per 1,000 residents.

Excluding the county's populations supported by municipal police, such as Cumberland and Frostburg, the 2020 Census shows roughly 40,000 residents are directly protected by the sheriff's office, Hill said.

Commissioners "allotted only two deputies per shift," he said.

"The sheriff's office should have approximately 81 sworn deputies," Hill said. "Though we believe that to be an unfair and unreasonable request at this time, given fiscal constraints among other reasons."

Additional deputies are also needed to offset the loss of police departments in Lonaconing, Luke and Westernport, he said and added Frostburg has a staffing shortage.

Securing the scene

Lack of manpower delays response for deputies to secure a violent crime scene for EMS personnel to treat injured people, Hill said.

"In turn likely resulting in the loss of lives," he said.

"The EMS frontline medical providers that have been funded are necessary and vital to the safety of not only the citizens but to our deputies as well," Hill said. "The public safety role and lifesaving mission of both EMS and deputies are directly interwoven."

Hill talked of multiple shootings and murders in the county in 2023.

In May that year, five people were shot, one of whom died, Hill said.

In October, four people were shot, including one fatally, he said.

"Just a few hours later, a subject was stabbed nearly to death in a separate incident," Hill said.

"While the two referenced shootings took place within municipalities within the county, the sheriff's office nonetheless provided support to the primary, allied agencies," he said.

"Deputies from the Allegany County Sheriff's, and Maryland State Police troopers, were not only necessary but vital in securing the crime scene and apprehending suspects," Hill said.

The incidents consumed patrol shifts and required assistance from deputies "who were off of work and in many cases home with their families," he said.

"Very typically during a large-scale incident ... deputies on their personal time are recalled to duty to allow for coverage of those agencies' primary calls for service," Hill said.

With each passing moment the lives and safety of our members, ( Department of Emergency Services) staff, and the community as a whole remain at risk," he said. "We are advocating a substantial step toward addressing and perhaps lowering the risk to our community."

'Likely not feasible'

Allegany County Public Relations and Communications Manager Kati Kenney on Friday said "leadership has spoken with Sgt. Hill a few times on a basic staff level, but have not met with the FOP yet."

County officials plan to contact the organization next week to schedule a meeting, she said.

"We've communicated to Sgt. Hill that we would keep him updated on any changes to the budget," Kenney said.

"But ... the budget doesn't look good, and that has not changed," she said.

"While there are still moving parts, we can say that funding 12 deputies in the next two years is likely not feasible," Kenney said. "We do have staff dedicated to researching other options, and we're hopeful to find other avenues that will offer at least a little bit of help for them. We're not far enough along with that to have confidence in it yet though."


(c)2024 the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.)

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