Prince George's County Sheriff Don Edward Ansell who pressed earlier this year for creation of a new corrections department he hoped to head, is now seeking to consolidate this current position and make peace with deputies who opposed him.
In a series of moves in recent weeks, Ansell has sought to mend relations with leaders of the deputies' revolt, rescinded a number of office rules to which they objected and publicly supported their concerns over job security in the proposed new corrections department.
Ansell also has told several deputies, according to reliable departmental sources, that he is no longer interested in heading the corrections department in whose creation he has been instrumental and that he wants to remain sheriff instead.
Largely at Ansell's instigation, County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. has proposed a reorganization that would vest most of the powers and positions now given the sheriff's office in a new corrections department. That general plan received overwhelming approval yesterday from a County Council committee. A public hearing is scheduled before the full Council July 19.
Ansell refused yesterday to talk with a reporter, saying he was too busy to discuss his views.
He did, however, appear before the Council committee to object vociferously to aspects of the reorganization he said threatened job security of deputies seeking jobs in the new department.
"Under the requirements they've set up, very few of them could qualify," he said. "Are we saying that unless they are a union, they have no rights?"
A few months ago, Ansell was sharply critical of the deputies who opposed his merger plans, asserting that they were more interested in being gun-toting policemen than professional correctional officers. As for himself, he said then, he had become increasingly interested in the corrections field as a profession.
Ansell spoke then from his office in the new county detention center. Recently, according to several sources, Ansell has been spending increasing time each day in his old office in the county courthouse, where deputies guard courtrooms and operate civil and criminal warrant section. These functions are not proposed to be shifted to the new corrections department.
The apparent turnaround in Ansell's attitude toward his own future and that of his deputies comes at a time when the sheriff and some of his deputies are under investigations by the county state's attorney for alleged abuses of office.
Aides to County Executive Kelly say Kelly has made no commitment to Ansell about the new job and that job applicants have started to inquire about the proposed position of corrections chief.
In a meeting with the county's Circuit Court judges two weeks ago, Ansell was brought in to defend various aspects of the reorganization that would affect the courts and wound up disowning it, according to sources who attended. "He said it was Kelly's plan, not his," the sources said.
In an interview earlier this year, Ansell referred to "my request there be a department of corrections."
Whatever the authorship of the reorganization plan, Ansell has taken other steps in recent weeks to win back his deputies' support. These included allowing deputies in the civil warrants section to work hours of their choosing and to keep county cars overnight, a fringe benefit Ansell had previously taken away.
He has also, departmental sources said, made known his intention to increase the criminal warrant squad and to allow deputies to take county cars home again.
Another order issued this spring, which became a sore point among deputies, also has been verbally rescinded. It required deputies to request annual leave at least 45 days in advance.
Two years ago, Ansell proposed a merger between the sheriffs office and the police in which he would have become a major in the special operations division. That plan fell through after Ansell changed his mind.