50% salary hike for Carroll County sheriff earns first approval

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

A bill that would increase the annual salary for Carroll County’s sheriff from $140,000 to $212,309 took its first step forward in the Maryland General Assembly this week.

Members of the Carroll County delegation voted unanimously Thursday to advance the bill, which would increase the salary of the next elected sheriff in 2026. The vote came during an online meeting to discuss and vote on county-specific bill requests.

Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees proposed and drafted the bill. He told the delegation he will run for reelection and said the amount of work his position requires warrants a pay raise. When DeWees, a Republican, was first elected in 2014, his annual salary was $90,000.

“This isn’t your grandfather’s sheriff’s office anymore,” he said Thursday. “It’s a full-service nationally accredited, high-speed, well-respected law enforcement agency that’s come a long way in a short period of time. And it requires smart leadership now and in the future to maintain this standard.”

The bill states that the sheriff’s salary would be equal to the pay of the highest available step for a lieutenant colonel in the Maryland State Police. Currently, that annual salary is $212,309, the state police Office of Communications said in an email.

The legislation calls for 85% of the new salary to be paid in 2026, and the full salary to be paid in 2027 and beyond.

Similar bills in Frederick County rejected

The Frederick County delegation advanced a similar bill in both the 2022 and 2023 legislative sessions. The 2022 bill would have raised the Frederick County sheriff’s annual salary to $140,000 for two years, then to $150,000 for the following two years, according to a Jan. 14 report in The Frederick News-Post. That bill was rejected by the House of Delegates 65-57, due in part to lawmakers who disagreed with policies of Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins.

Jenkins’ current salary is $125,000.

The 2023 version of the Frederick delegation’s bill asked to raise the sheriff’s pay to that of the highest-paid Maryland State Police lieutenant colonels, or $193,500. That bill passed the Senate, but died in a House committee, due to legal issues surrounding Jenkins, the Frederick News-Post reported.

Sen. Justin Ready, whose district includes portions of Carroll and Frederick counties, put forward the 2023 bill, along with Republican Sens. William Folden and Paul Corderman.

Ready, who did not attend the Carroll County delegation Zoom meeting Thursday, said in an interview Friday that he supports the bill presented by DeWees because it is tied to the salary of the highest-paid state police lieutenant colonel.

“I think it was the right move,” he said. “It’s something that makes sense, because you won’t have to decide what the [salary] should be. There is still that check and balance.”

DeWees said he modeled his bill after similar ones put forward by Charles and Harford counties.


Responsibilities and accomplishments

To make his case to the Carroll delegation, DeWees outlined his responsibilities.

“Since taking over as sheriff in 2014, the office has exponentially changed, and grown both by legislative mandate and because simply it needed to in order to meet the needs of the county,” he said. “My office patrols the county with 140 law enforcement deputies.”

DeWees also listed his accomplishments since he was first elected.

“I’ve started up my own fully accredited police academy, drawing recruits from all over the state,” he said. “This March, I’ll graduate my seventh class. I’ve instituted a schoolwide [School Resource Officer] program, placing deputies in all our public schools to support the mission of a safe learning environment.

“I’ve secured over $2 million in grant funding to support a state-of-the art body-worn and in-car camera program,” he said. “We reallocated manpower within my office to oversee and process the massive amount of data these cameras produce.”

DeWees said the sheriff’s office now has a license plate reader system on state roads leading into Carroll County that scans license plates to search for stolen vehicles and wanted criminals.

“I run both a multi-agency task force for drugs and for child abuse,” he said. “I’m currently in design for a new state-of-the-art sheriff’s headquarters. Within that headquarters will be a regional, ATF National Integrated Ballistic network. This system allows us to analyze firearm shell casings to match them with shell casings collected from other crime scenes.”

DeWees said his job also involves oversight of the county’s detention center, “a 185-bed facility with over 100 staff members, and it operates 24/7, 365 [days a year]. You all don’t hear much about it, because it doesn’t get much attention, but it does require a ton of time and attention by me and the command staff that oversees that facility.”

DeWees is a retired state police captain. He said he drew from his experience with the state police to determine what the county sheriff should earn.

“I served there for 25 years,” he said. “Prior to my retirement, I was the superintendent’s executive officer, so I have a good understanding of the overall operations of the Maryland State Police.”

Some opposition expected

DeWees said he expects some in the public to oppose his bill.

“I’m not naive,” he said. “I know that there’s opposition to any sort of pay raise for my office, and I’ve read some of the opposition.”

DeWees told the delegation that he has heard concerns about the coverage area of his office.

“My office is responsible for patrolling all incorporated municipalities, specifically patrolling Hampstead, Manchester and Mount Airy, after certain hours at night when they’re not on duty,” DeWees said. “We also handle their more complex cases including rapes and homicides. I assign full-time deputies to patrol New Windsor and Union Bridge, both incorporated municipalities that couldn’t afford law enforcement. So, I choose to support their efforts.

“My office supports the Westminster Police Department in every way possible,” he said. “Since it’s the county seat, it tends to be the hub for criminal activity. Overall, my office handles almost 80% of all crime in Carroll County.”

Del. Eric Bouchat, a Republican who is a member of the Carroll delegation, said he was not “overly optimistic” the bill would succeed in the General Assembly.

“First of all, I want to state that having served four years as county commissioner, one of the most enjoyable aspects of that duty was serving with Sheriff DeWees,” Bouchat said. “I’ve never seen a more professional operation run before, and his staff is phenomenal.

“I support this, and like the concept and idea, however, we have a big uphill battle,” he said. “I can support this, but I am not going to be overly optimistic about its chances.

DeWees was first elected in 2014 and replaced Kenneth Tregoning who had served four consecutive terms. In the 2014 primary, DeWees defeated two opponents: Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Col. Phil Kasten and Chris Fiora. In the 2014 general election, DeWees earned nearly 78% of the vote, defeating Democrat Vince Pacelli.

He ran unopposed in the 2018 and 2022 elections.