Prince George's Sheriff Don E. Ansell has suspended the president of the deputy sheriff's association for allegedly photocopying and releasing to the press a letter from Ansell to the head of the county's delegation in Annapolis.
The Feb. 4 letter to Del. Frederick C. Rummage (D-Camp Springs) outlines Ansell's proposal to create a new corrections department and his decision, in the meantime, to discontinue police training of deputy sheriffs "as of this time."
There are some 260 deputy sheriffs under Ansell, the county's elected sheriff. The deputies run the county detention center, transport prisoners to and from court, serve criminal and civil warrants.
Rumors of an impending reorganisation under which many of the deputies would become correctional officers - without the power of arrest they now enjoy - have been circulating for weeks and have drawn special fire from the deputy sheriff's association, which claims a membership of 150. The association is seeking recognition as the collective bargaining agent for the entire force.
Suspended Tuesday with pay pending an investigation was James Hubbard. "I regard it (the suspension) as a form of harassment," Hubbard said yeaterday.
"It doesn't have anything to do with harassment or anything else," Ansell said yesterday. He declined, however, to discuss the reasons for the suspension, saying to do so would violate the law enforcement officers' "biill of rights."
The official "notification of investigation" charges Hubbard with "the photocopying of an officilal document that was removed from the sheriff's files without authorization and the releases of this unauthorized confidential letter to the news media without departmental approval."
In a letter to Hubbard, Ansell said the alleged copying and distribution "basically jeopardizes the security and confidentiality of this department and the files that are not available to the general public."
Ansell's letter to Rummage was a response to a complaint made to the state legislator by two deputy sheriffs who were refused permission to attend the county police academy in Forestville. The letter was disclosed in the Feb. 17 issue of a weekly Prince George's newspaper.
Since July 1, all newly hired deputies have been required to sign forms acknowledging that they may be permanently assigned to the corrections end of the department.
Ansell said in an interview he would like to be the appointed director of corrections if the department is established. "I enjoy it thoroughly," he said. "I feel rehabilitation can work. It's a hell of a challenge.'
Ansell said he wants correctional officers who are "just concerned with corrections." His appointed assistant, Maj. Guy Williams, said "We have more than 100 deputies in the jail who can't wait to go to the police academy to get a gun and badge and start locking people up. Under the new system, if they're correctional officers, they have no power of arrest and can't hold part-time jobs as security guards."
Many deputies deeply resent such statements. They say they are not opposed to the creation of a department but feel their police powers provide extra safety to the community.
The resentment spilled over yesterday into the office of County Executive Winfield Kelly Jr., who heard from some tow dozen deputies during his monthly "open door" session.
During the half-hour session, Kelly acknowledged that he favors creating a new corrections department, promised the deputies that they would be fully consulted in any cases, and told them financial constraints might kill the idea anyway.