County Comment: Mades has seen changes in county
Mades has seen changes in county
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer
Washington County's Sheriff is retiring from law enforcement, again. Following the 2006 election, Charles Mades will step down after 20 years on the job. He retired from the Maryland State Police after 25 years, prior to his first election to the post.
When Mades took over as Sheriff of Washington County, his office budget was $2 million and there were about 100 employees. Today the budget figure is $17 million and the number of staff has increased to about 220 employees.
Those changes haven't been the only ones the veteran law enforcement officer, who is retiring and not running for reelection, has seen in his 20 years as Sheriff.
As Washington County has grown, the calls for service have increased. Shopping areas such as Prime Outlets and Valley Mall have added to the load, with calls to Sheriff's Patrol for shoplifting and theft.
"When I came here we had three Deputies assigned to the Narcotics Task Force," Mades said, "That unit now has 7 Deputies, 7 City police officers, 4 full-time DEA agents, so drugs have been a problem for the 20 years I've been Sheriff, and still is a problem."
Mades said that law enforcement officials have seen an increased in violence associated with drug trafficking in the community, and thanked the County Commissioners for giving his department the tools to do the job of Public Safety.
"You wouldn't be able to do this job if you didn't have good, qualified staff working for you," Mades said, "and it's getting harder to hire good young people because of the background requirements that are mandated by the state of Maryland. We go through a tremendous amount of applicants to get these people."
One of the problems the department has faced is the constant drain of employees from its Patrol, Judicial and Detention divisions by other Counties, which until recently, were able to offer far higher salaries than Washington County. Too often, Washington County would foot the bill for training the officers, only to have nearby Counties hire them away.
"I take my hat off to this Board of County Commissioners who recognized our problem. We worked very well with our County Human Resource Director Dave Hankinson, our County Administrator Rod Shoop and made a presentation that said you're losing two and a half million dollars in training, education and time spent with staff, just to have them go someplace else for more money."
"When you call for police service you want a good, qualified, well-trained officer to respond, and do a good job. And that's what we try to provide, a level of service that you, as the resident of the community and a taxpayer are proud to have."
The Commissioners responded by increasing deputies' salaries, effective in October. When that occurs, Washington County will be at about 92% of the salary level of its closest competitor in Maryland, Frederick County. There are other counties that are paying higher salaries, but the increases, especially for patrol officers, will make the County very competitive with other areas, Mades said.
The new Sheriff and Board of County Commissioners will have to keep an eye on pay parity issues. "It's good right now, but if we don't keep on top of issues like that then we're just going to fall behind again," Mades said.
Mades thanked Washington County voters for electing him 5 times to office, but at age 66, it is time to move on.
"It's a young man's job, it's not just 8 hours a day," Mades said. "There are a lot of meetings in the evenings, there are commitments on the weekends, because you are elected. The people want to see you out in the community."
The concept of Centralized Booking is the one large problem Mades sees a new Sheriff having to tackle. Mades said the issue has been in the works since 2000. "It's definitely a funding issue. In September I will be going to talk with the Maryland Budget people in Baltimore about funding for next year, so the new kid on the block is going to have to pick that up and go with it," he said.
The Detention Center might have to be increased in size when Centralized Booking comes into being. A concept has been reviewed that could add a second floor to one wing of the facility.
"That would give us 40 or 50 more beds, and is one of the things that the new guy is going to have to look at," Mades commented.
"We're remodeling a Courthouse downtown that is going to require additional personnel, which this Board of County Commissioners adequately funded," he said.
The concept of Courthouse security, "Is going to require a whole new thought process for even the employees at the Courthouse about how we're going to do things down there," Mades said.
There will be an x-ray machine installed at one of the entrances, and all who enter will have to undergo screening. Discussions have been held on the possibility of closing the Washington Street entrance to the Courthouse, with all entry at the Annex doors on Summit Avenue, for security purposes.
"These folks coming in are going to have to realize that since September 11, 2001, policing has really changed, not only in Washington County, but throughout the Country. We're the primary security force at the Hagerstown Airport, which is one of three in Maryland required to have police presence, along with Salisbury and BWI," he said.
One of seven Sheriffs in Maryland not running for re-election, Mades says he told key staff four years ago this would be his final term. He says he plans to spend a lot of time with his wife and 9 grandchildren after leaving office.