“You’re just a sheriff’s deputy” is a phrase often heard by Anne Arundel County Sheriff’s Office deputies, and often used by people who either do not pay attention to, or do not understand, the structure of our county law enforcement. In fact, your sheriff’s office is steeped with history and tradition as the second-oldest law enforcement agency in Maryland, one of the oldest in the country, and the first law enforcement agency in our wonderful county. During 2020, we will celebrate 370 years of existence as a sheriff’s office.
What might surprise some people is that a deputy in the sheriff’s office has the same certification as a county police officer, but with additional constitutional authority. Deputies can make traffic stops, write reports and respond to crimes like any other sworn law enforcement officer; however, deputies are also enforcers of the courts.
The office of the sheriff is responsible for service of criminal warrants and summons, child support enforcement, domestic violence orders, protective orders, peace orders, notices for late rent, and evictions. There are approximately 32 deputies on the street each weekday, but that is just part of the agency. The office is also empowered to protect the circuit court, where the county’s worst offenders are prosecuted. Deputies protect the hundreds of thousands of citizens who enter the building annually, as well as employees of the Clerk of the Court, State’s Attorney Office, Orphan’s Court, register of wills, and county judges and magistrates. In the lower level of the courthouse is a detention facility run by the sheriff’s office, where deputies also ensure the safe transport and temporary housing of about 5,000 prisoners and detainees annually.
Yes, deputies are fully sworn law enforcement officers with a great deal of authority but with little public notoriety. However, the lack of notoriety should not diminish the critical community need for this constitutional office. Recognition of the office, though, begins at the elected official level.
As a retired county police officer with enormous respect for our county workforce, I certainly do not begrudge great agencies like our police, fire, and correctional departments their much needed increases in personnel. Nearly 100 new officers and firefighters, and almost 50 new correctional officers, were added in the last year. In the same year, the sheriff’s office added only two positions. Sadly, county administrations in the past 20 years have added only seven deputy positions to the office. Take a few seconds to let that sink in. Twenty years, most of them in a post 9/11 America, and only seven new positions.
As the county has grown in the last two decades, so have the levels of service it requires, yet deputies have languished under a lack of attention from county administrations.
The county executive recently gave a “State of the County” speech, in which he touted successes in public safety agencies, but once again failed to mention the sheriff’s office. However, I don’t blame this county executive, since many before him failed to give the office proper attention, staffing and budget. Anne Arundel County will not be the safest place for all, not until all public safety agencies in county government are treated equally and given the proper tools with which to carry out their duties. Sheriff’s office deputies are of great importance to law enforcement in Anne Arundel County. And no, they are not “just a sheriff’s deputy;” they are your hardworking law enforcement officers, performing dangerous tasks every day. Let us hope this is the “Year of the Sheriff’s Office” so it can be staffed to properly support the courts, serve the citizens of the county, and play its part in making our communities as safe as possible.