The Charles County Sheriff's Office and the Maryland State Police have put into effect a new agreement that further limits the criminal investigation authority of the state police in Charles County.
Signed without fanfare Sept. 15, the agreement cedes investigative authority for all violent crimes, except certain vehicular manslaughter cases, to the sheriff's office. The state police can investigate serious crimes only if a resident is "adamant" in requesting state police help.
Under the new agreement, the state police will continue to be responsible for policing state highways, and both agencies will respond to serious crimes in progress.
Law enforcement officials began rewriting the document in July after a spring marked by a public turf battle between the two agencies that resulted in scuffles at crime scenes and foul-ups in high-speed chases.
Yesterday, authorities from both police agencies said the clear language of the new document will help avoid jurisdictional confusion.
"There were ambiguities in the document we needed to address," said Sheriff Fred Davis (R), a former state trooper. "The bottom line is that we only have so many resources. We need to cooperate and do the job we're paid to do, regardless of what uniform we're wearing."
"It's long overdue," said Lt. Paul Kelley, commander of the state police Waldorf barracks. "The new document is very clear. To me, there are no gray areas."
Officials of both agencies agreed that the new document reflects a sensible division of labor between the rapidly growing sheriff's office, which has about 200 deputies and its own criminal investigation division, and the Waldorf barracks, which has 43 troopers and other sworn personnel. The Waldorf location is now one of nine state police barracks that handle only traffic; 14 others across the state are "full service," which means they provide all police services for the areas they serve.
Charles County State's Attorney Leonard C. Collins Jr. (D), one of the most vocal critics of the state police, called the agreement a "significant milestone in law enforcement in Charles County" and said it was a realistic delineation of duties between the two agencies.
Davis and state police officials said they began reworking the 1994 document because it is supposed to be revised every two years.
"I came in on July 15, and I saw problems, problems that could be resolved," Kelley said.
The new agreement states that the sheriff's office will handle the criminal investigation of homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults and other serious incidents. The state police may investigate crimes such as weapons violations and drug cases, vehicular manslaughter cases resulting from fatalities on state roadways, and criminal offenses on state property, and may assist in joint investigations with the county.
If a resident requests that the state police investigate a serious crime, the state police must first say that the sheriff's office handles such investigations, according to the document. The state police can handle such a case only if the resident is "adamant" that the agency help.
Sheriff's Capt. Joseph Montminy said that the new document has "cleared the air" and that he was not hearing the regular complaints about his staff's conflicts with troopers that he had previously. A joint meeting and training session of supervisors from both agencies will be held next Wednesday to review the new mandate, Montminy said.