Prince George's County sheriff James V. Aluisi has asked the attorney general's office to decide whether or not the he can legally maintain an auxiliary force of volunteer deputies to help cut down the office's administrative workload.
The sheriff's office currently has a 46-man force of volunteer deputies who have the power of arrest and are authorized to deliver legal papers, such as warrants. The volunteers are not issued guns, although - like any citizen - they may carry a weapon if they have a gun license.
In an opinion issued in May 1978 former Attorney General Francis B. Burch told then-sheriff Don Edward Ansell that he did not have the authority "to maintain a standing reserve corps of volunteer deputies."
Assistant sheriff James Hubbard said that Aluisi had relied on a 1975 attorney general's office ruling on the question, which authorized a similar practice in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore.
Hubbard said the reason for the volunteer force was the inability of the 110 paid members of the department to issue all the hundreds of warrants assigned to it.
Hubbard said that County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan and County Council Chairman William B. Amonett earlier this year suggested the formation of a volunteer force as a way to deal with the workload.
Hogan could not be reached for comment yesterday. However, Amonett said that he had suggested "several alternatives," to Aluisi, including the formation of a volunteer force.
"I said I thought in some cases we should try to use police officers when a warrant is dangerous to issue and, if it would save some money, try to get volunteers to help out in some cases," Amonett said. "I wasn't aware that there could be a legal problem with that.
"I certainly don't want to see any kind of return to the system we had here some years ago where the sheriff was maintaining his own private army though."
The issue of volunteer deputies is a particularly sensitive one in Prince George's. Between 1966 and 1970 then sheriff William J. Kersey deputized numerous volunteers and maintained what Amonett referred to as "an army." Aluisi was a deputy while Kersey was sheriff.