ANNAPOLIS — Anne Arundel County officials should think about strengthening the county’s ethics commission, grant higher pay for police promotions and consider moving an executive protection detail out of the police department, a task force concluded Monday.
The task force was formed to examine problems that led to department instability under former County Executive John Leopold, who was convicted in January on misconduct in office charges, and former Police Chief Larry Tolliver, who stepped down in May after complaints he had retaliated against officers who testified against Leopold. An investigation also found Tolliver had used an anti-gay slur at work.
“It appears that over the last several years, a single scandal involving a very small group of people and their conduct has held the agency captive,” the task force, which was led by former Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld, concluded in its report.
Leopold’s misconduct in office related to forcing members of his security detail to perform campaign work.
The task force recommended the county consider moving the detail from the police department to the county executive’s office, but current Police Chief Kevin Davis said he was “very comfortable” with having the detail consist of sworn county officers.
“I think the mistakes made in the past had nothing to do with the structure. It had to do with people, so I don’t know that we throw the baby out with the bathwater, if you will,” Davis said, adding that an assessment continues.
County Executive Laura Neuman, who was chosen by the county council to replace Leopold in February, said she believes the police chief should make the recommendation on whether the detail remains in the police department.
The task force also recommended beefing up oversight capabilities of the county ethics commission, which is limited only to issuing opinions.
“There’s essentially no teeth there,” Bealefeld said.
Neuman, who attended a news conference with Davis and Bealefeld, agreed.
“I think we’re all clear that that would be helpful, based on our history,” Neuman said.
The task force also suggested the county consider increasing salaries for officers who are promoted through the ranks to be more in line with what other police departments pay.
“The fact of the matter is, if the pay is so narrow between sergeant and lieutenant or lieutenant and captain, people don’t want to stick their heads up for those jobs, so it has to be financially attractive and benefit their careers or you really lose a talent pool that you could tap into and really move the department forward,” Bealefeld said.
The report also cited a lack of accountability in internal investigations as a concern.
Newman and Davis said the department has focused on making internal affairs more responsive to the complaints of employees as well as members of the public.
“If internal affairs is working well, we wouldn’t have been through this dark history we’ve been through,” Neuman said. “It will work well going forward. The proper process has been put in place to make that happen, but it is an area that we needed to strengthen without question.”