At a mayor and council workshop meeting Wednesday evening, Taneytown Mayor Bradley Wantz announced his intention to nominate Taneytown police Lt. Jason Etzler to the position of permanent police chief.

Etzler has been serving as the acting police chief in Taneytown since Feb. 4, when Chief William Tyler was federally charged with illegal possession and transfer of machine guns. Tyler pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful transfer and possession of a machine gun on Feb. 12.

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At Wednesday’s meeting, Wantz said he had spent the past two months speaking with officers at the police department about the state of the department and their thoughts about Etzler, as well as with Etzler himself about the possibility of taking the reigns as chief permanently.

“I am confident in nominating him as our police chief,” Wantz said at the meeting. “Monday night I will be asking for the council’s approval of that nomination.”

The mayor and council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Monday, when a majority vote of the council will be necessary to confirm Etzler as the city’s new top cop. According to the Taneytown code, a police chief serves at the pleasure of the mayor and council and may also be removed by a vote of the council.

Reception from members of the council was mixed, with some members acknowledging the mayor’s authority to nominate Etzler, but expressing regret that the job was not posted and outside candidates considered.

“I realize this is within your purview to do. What I do disagree with is the process, or lack thereof, in the selection,” said Councilwoman Diane Foster, Taneytown’s mayor pro tem. “I feel as if this appointment should have been advertised and put out and others should have been considered as well as Lt. Etzler.”

Councilwoman Judith Fuller agreed and said that while she did not doubt Etzler could do a good job, she would have liked to have considered other candidates to make a comparison.

Councilman Daniel Haines noted the mayor’s authority to nominate a candidate and some reasons to do so.

“With the former chief’s sentencing coming up here soon, I guess there is a desire to stabilize the department,” he said to Wantz. “It’s your decision.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged former Taneytown police Chief William Tyler with <a href="https://www.carrollcountytimes.com/news/crime/cc-charges-filed-against-tyler-20190204-story.html" target="_blank">transferring and possessing machine guns, according to court records.</a>
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged former Taneytown police Chief William Tyler with transferring and possessing machine guns, according to court records. (Courtesy Photo)

Tyler is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 6.

In an interview Thursday, Wantz said he had confidence in Etzler as an adult in the room at the police department, and multiple outside investigations — Frederick City Police Internal Affairs, Maryland State Police and outside consultants were all involved — found he and the rest of the department were not involved in the illegal activity surrounding Tyler.

“It reinforced to me that Lt. Etzler was not involved in the shenanigans that went on," Wantz said Thursday. “He was a tremendous asset to the city in assisting those investigations, providing information that these people requested.”

The lack of a permanent chief is too pressing an issue to delay for a longer search process, according to Wantz, and he noted that the department is currently understaffed and having difficulty hiring new officers without an official top cop at the station.

“People will say, ‘What’s going on with the chief?’ because they don’t want to come in if they don’t know what kind of stability is in place,” Wantz said in an interview. “We’ve been running nearly sixth months now understaffed, so there is a certain since of urgency that we can get this thing back on track.”

Councilmen Darryl Hale and Joe Vigliotti voiced their support for Etzler’s nomination at Wednesday’s meeting, with Vigliotti reading from a long, prepared statement.

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“Lt. Etzler stepped into the breach after the January incident when no one else did; he didn’t have to ... but he stepped up and took command,” Vigliotti said, referring to the case being brought against Tyler. “Our officers trust Etzler. I think it can be argued that our residents love our officers as well as Etzler.”

Hale said he thought Etlzer would make a great chief.

“As of Aug. 9, he will be celebrating his 17th year with the city,” Hale said. “I think it’s a great decision.”

Public comment was also split, with one man commenting that he felt that transparency was an issue with this nomination, whereas a woman commented that elevating Etzler was good business practice.

“I think I am from the old school, where you move people up that are doing good in there job,” she said at the microphone. “You promote the people who are already there.”

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