A number of Taneytown Police Department officers signed a letter offering support for acting Chief Jason Etzler and recommending his position be made the permanent.
Etzler was named acting chief after federal agents on Jan. 15 raided the City’s police department, the home of longtime Chief of Police William Tyler and another officer’s residence in Fairfield, Pennsylvania. Tyler pleaded guilty in federal court Feb. 12 to illegally possessing and transferring machine guns owned by the Taneytown Police Department and lying to federal agents.
Dated March 5, the letter recommended Etzler be made chief permanently and acknowledged Carroll County Times’ reporting on an anonymous complaint from a “concerned officer” about the police department sent to Mayor and Council in September.
Councilman Joe Vigliotti read aloud the letter to his colleagues and the public at the monthly council meeting March 11.
“There has been newspaper articles (sic) reporting that an anonymous letter characterized Lt. Etzler as ruling by fear,” the letter details. “We believe that Lt. Etzler was unfairly blamed as being a part of Ex-Chief of Police William Tyler's actions and poor leadership.”
The anonymous letter from September alleged that then-chief Tyler and Etzler, his second in command, ruled by fear and that equipment was regularly purchased for personal use. When Mayor and Council received the September complaint they called Tyler into a closed meeting and opted not to investigate further.
The fully-automatic rifles Tyler pleaded guilty to possessing and transferring months later were purchased by the Taneytown Police Department.
Eight officers — Pfc. Steven Sakadales, Pfc. Jered Marshall, Officer Hiram Henderson, Sgt. Jessie Castellar, Cpl. Brian Shaffer, Officer Adam Romero, Cpl. Shane Shultz and Pfc. Ralph Williams — signed the letter.
“This will also have a tremendous impact on the ongoing evaluation of the police, as the trust we exhibited in Acting Chief Etzler is also shared by those officers who serve under him,” Vigliotti wrote in an email to the Times. “This helps us, as Mayor and Council, to better understand and have greater confidence in the workings and culture of the Department, and that will help us make sound choices and decisions.”
Taneytown’s department employed 14 officers as of Jan. 18. Tyler resigned Jan. 30 weeks before pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander. The other officer — referred to as “Officer 1” in Tyler’s plea agreement — remains on administrative leave, according to Vigliotti and Town Attorney Jay Gullo.
Vigliotti, along with Councilwomen Judy Fuller and Diane Foster, voted in a closed meeting Saturday, Feb. 9, to keep Etzler, who had assumed command when Tyler was put on administrative leave, as acting chief. Councilmen Bradley Wantz and Donald Frazier voted no, saying the city should have brought in a high-ranking law enforcement official from another agency to temporarily run the department.
“I think it’s important that we get the input of the police department on this decision,” Wantz told the Times Friday. “I don’t believe we’re anywhere close to making that decision.”
Wantz added that the city should address the city manager position before making a decision on a permanent police chief. “I don’t want to bring in a new permanent chief who would then be under an acting city manager,” he said.
The city of Taneytown has placed its chief of police, William Tyler, and another officer on administrative leave after federal law enforcement agents executed a sealed search warrant at the Taneytown Police Department on Tuesday.
Jim Wieprecht, the city’s Planning and Zoning director, has been acting city manager since the late City Manager Henry Heine fell ill. Heine, an enduring figure of Taneytown government, died Oct. 26 after a battle with cancer.
Mayor James McCarron at the March 11 council meeting said the city still has “some work to do investigation-wise regarding the department and its policies” but that he hoped to decide on a permanent police chief soon and that the letter would “go a long way in helping us make that decision.”
The city, a day before Tyler pleaded guilty and at the same meeting they announced Etzler would stay on as acting chief, announced it would enlist the services of other law enforcement agencies to audit the department’s records and policies.
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.”
“I think it’s still important that we consider putting this out for additional candidates,” he said. “If the time comes we look at it and realize really (Etzler’s) done a great job in turning the department around or improving things, making things more efficient, then perhaps we go that route.”