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The Maryland General Assembly unanimously approved a bill to extend due process rights to deputies working at the Carroll County Detention Center and Gov. Larry Hogan signed the bill into law Tuesday.

The Correctional Officer Bill of Rights was requested by Sheriff Jim DeWees and Warden George Hardinger to give correctional deputies rights when a complaint is filed against them that are in line with patrol deputies, who have the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights.

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"We met no resistance," Hardinger said of the process of getting the bill of rights passed.

The COBOR mirrors the one for law enforcement and provides that when a complaint is made against a deputy at the detention center, he or she is given notice, a scheduled interview, a opportunity to get a lawyer and a right to appeal to a board of their peers.

Hardinger said complaints and discipline for correctional deputies have been steadily declining, and he does not feel that their process has been unfair. However, he said, the nearly 100 deputies affected by the law at the detention center appreciate the sheriff's efforts to treat them equally.

"They're not second-class citizens," Hardinger said.

DeWees said people are taken aback that he took steps to make it harder for him to fire someone. The detention center falls under DeWees' command as sheriff.

"It makes me more accountable to the individual employee," he said.

DeWees said he could have extended the rights without passing a bill through the legislature, but those rights would only have lasted as long as he was in office. He wanted the measure to be as permanent as possible.

"I can have patrol deputies all day long lock people up but if I don't have good, strong correctional deputies to watch over them, I'm in trouble," DeWees said.

Not only did DeWees ask the legislature to solidify due process rights for the county's correctional deputies, but a representative was involved in the process and signed off on the matrix of offenses and punishments.

Command staff has already been trained at the detention center and the procedures are currently in place, according to DeWees. Though the law doesn't take effect until Oct. 1, DeWees said he has extended the rights administratively in the meantime.

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