Taneytown Mayor James McCarron reads a statement announcing the city's appointment of Lt. Jason Etzler as acting chief of the city's police department at a council meeting Monday, Feb. 11, a week after former chief William Tyler was federally indicted on machine gun charges.
Taneytown Mayor James McCarron reads a statement announcing the city's appointment of Lt. Jason Etzler as acting chief of the city's police department at a council meeting Monday, Feb. 11, a week after former chief William Tyler was federally indicted on machine gun charges. (Alex Mann / Carroll County Times)

Taneytown Mayor James McCarron announced Monday that the city had appointed police Lt. Jason Etzler to acting chief and that it will ask the Maryland Police Training Commission to audit the department’s training records “to ensure that best training practices are being followed.”

The announcement comes about one week after former police Chief William Tyler was federally indicted on illegal possession and transfer of machine guns charges. Tyler has a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 12, in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.


Etzler had assumed command of the department following Tyler’s being placed on administrative leave shortly after federal agents searched the department on Jan. 15. He will continue on an interim basis as acting chief. The lawmakers did not say when a permanent decision on a replacement for Tyler would be made.

McCarron also said in the statement the city believes that the fully automatic Ruger rifles, which Tyler has been charged with illegally possessing and transferring, were once property of the police department “having been acquired between 2002 and 2003.”

Tyler assumed his role as police chief in 2002. He started at the department in 1994, city records detail.

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The elected officials, and some city staff, held a closed meeting Saturday “to discuss what additional investigative steps should be taken to ensure there are no systemic deficiencies within our department,” McCarron said Feb. 6 at the monthly workshop meeting.

“This is an opportunity for the city to review its policies and procedures with an aim of reinforcing that the city’s police department is following the best management practices and community policing,” he added.

McCarron, according to his statement, recommended at the closed session that Etzler be appointed to acting chief. Council, the mayor said, confirmed the mayor’s appointment with a 3-2 vote. Councilmen Bradley Wantz and Donald Frazier voted against Etzler being appointed as acting chief.

“There’s benefits to having an outside person come in and take care of all these audits,” Wantz said after the council meeting Monday night. “It’s not a personal thing.”

Wantz and Frazier said they would have preferred to appoint somebody from another law enforcement agency to serve as police chief on an interim basis.

McCarron and Councilwoman Diane Foster, the mayor pro tem, said after the meeting that the council opted for Etzler’s appointment because “continuity” would serve the city better.

Councilman Joe Vigliotti said Etzler’s “receptiveness to being willing to change things that needed to be changed” earned his support.

Vigliotti, who writes a regular column for the Times, said Etzler told him that he is looking into more surveillance at the department — including more cameras — that he wants to inventory all the police equipment, improve the hiring process, better communication with city officials and increase police presence at events.

Etzler, McCarron said, accepted the position Monday morning, and is “ready and willing to make necessary and appropriate changes.”

Serving as acting chief, McCarron said, will allow council “to see what (Etzler) can do and whether he decides he wants to do it.”

The city will address “any inadequacies, issues, or questionable behavior or conduct discovered” during the Maryland Police Training Commission audit, McCarron said.


Tyler resigned Jan. 30 and five days later was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possessing and transferring two Ruger .223 caliber, model KAC556 machine guns between Nov. 8, 2017, and Jan. 15, 2019.

Charging documents do not detail how Tyler obtained the machine guns and the federal search warrants remain sealed.

However, a former ATF agent and a local machine gun dealer told the Times that the automatic rifles described in the federal charges would be easier for a law enforcement official to purchase for their department than they would be for a member of the public to legally obtain.

Taneytown elected officials in September received an anonymous complaint about its police department signed by a “concerned officer.” The complaint called into question the police department’s leadership and alleged that equipment — including ammunition — was regularly purchased for personal use. The Times obtained the complaint through a Public Information Act request.

The Sept. 7 complaint letter claimed the department is “ruled by fear,” naming Tyler and his then second-in-command Etzler.

The lawmakers called in Tyler and went into a closed session immediately following a public council meeting Sept. 10 to discuss the complaint. The mayor and council chose to take no further action, later telling the Times that they had reservations about acting on an anonymous letter and that Tyler had a reasonable answer for all the allegations outlined in the letter.

“We asked the Chief [Tyler] about the issues that were raised,” McCarron said in January. “And he addressed each of the issues we raised to him and explained them to council’s satisfaction. … The ammunition that was supposedly missing wasn’t at all based on what was disclosed later.”

Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees, the county’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer, said his department has been called upon by other municipal law enforcement agencies to perform internal investigations or audits relating to internal complaints about misconduct by officers, “so that there is no perception of conflict [of interest].”

His agency — the largest in Carroll — has also provided high-ranking officials to serve as interim police chiefs for smaller departments until the smaller agency can find a permanent leader.

“We are certainly open,” DeWees told the Times in January. “We’ve done it recently with coming in and assisting, from acting as the department chief until one is established [in Hampstead] … or internal audits of whatever issues the department’s having that they want us to look at so that we can give a good, independent audit.”