Mount Airy to move toward its own police force

The town of Mount Airy will begin moving forward with plans to create its own police force, the Town Council decided Monday night.

In a discussion about the possibility of replacing the town's current Maryland State Police Resident Trooper Program with a new municipal force, the council determined there was enough agreement among members to begin preliminary plans to create a Mount Airy force, though, because no ordinance had been presented, they did not take an official vote.


Next, the town will draft an ordinance officially terminating the state police contract and laying the groundwork for an independent police force, said Mayor Patrick Rockinberg. The town will also begin work on budgeting for the force.

"From my perspective, I think we need to move to our own force at this point," said Town Council President Peter Helt.

Helt said he attended the council's public hearing on the matter in January with a number of questions about the creation of a new force. But after the meeting, which included many speakers who expressed support of a town police department, Helt said he was confident in his decision to support the change.

The town has been grappling with whether to replace the Maryland State Police Resident Trooper Program with a municipal force for years. With a high turnover rate for troopers stationed in Mount Airy and continually rising costs to maintain the program, the town released a study in November comparing the costs of the two options. In the report, it was determined that the town police force would be more cost effective in the long term.

"I would love to be the last holdout for the Maryland State Police," said Councilman Bob King. But when all things are considered, he said, the town force is the best option for the town.

"I don't see how we get the coverage we deserve or the control we deserve without going to our own police force," King said.

But not all council members were as assured.

When Councilman Ken Phebus expressed concern over the possibility of the town government having too much control over a municipal force, Rockinberg told Phebus that the town force would be granted the same degree of independence all town forces are given in the state.

While he said he had some qualms about whether the quality of a town force could compete with state police, Phebus said he was encouraged to hear over the past couple months of discussion that the town had the support of members of both the Carroll County and Frederick County sheriff's offices in the switch to a town force.

Councilman Jason Poirier said he personally supported the idea of a Mount Airy police department, but feedback from some of his constituents, some of whom expressed reservations about trading state troopers for a totally new force, had led him to indecision in his capacity as a council member.

"Personally, I would go toward our own town force," he said. "As a town councilman, I'm not sold just yet."

The council decided to begin work on creating the force, noting that there is a lot of planning to do before any change can be made to the policing of the town.

"I do think it's the right thing to do," said Rockinberg. "Let's move forward."