On Tuesday, a Maryland Legal Aid attorney announced that he had filed a complaint against a Harford County Sheriff’s deputy that alleges an officer detained and questioned him on the basis of race, suspecting he was his client impersonating a lawyer. The law firm representing Rashad James referred to the incident as “lawyering while black.”

On March 6, James appeared in Harford County District Court to represent a client. His client was not present, but there was an open warrant out for his client’s arrest, according to the complaint.


Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey R. Gahler has said his office is investigating the allegation.

Gahler has taken his share of controversial stances since being elected Harford’s sheriff in 2014. Gahler, a Republican, was re-elected to a second term four-year as sheriff in November with more than 68 percent of the vote.

  • In a Jan. 31 Facebook post, he took issue with Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s announcement that she would ignore Maryland’s marijuana possession laws, stating Harford would “continue to enforce the State’s laws in regards to marijuana possession — because that is what we are sworn to do.” He continued that he would work with Harford County State’s Attorney Albert Peisinger, “to ensure that when people commit crimes, they are held accountable. … Only if, and when, the State of Maryland, through our constitutionally established legislative process, changes the law, will we change course.”
  • Earlier in January, he penned a letter to the editor supporting President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, calling on Congress to stop the “free flow of poison” coming into the country. Gahler wrote that an open border between the countries allows for the flow of heroin and opioids into the country and “into our neighborhoods and killing thousands of our friends and family members each year.” In Harford, 82 people died from heroin and fentanyl in 2018.
  • In October 2016, he signed an agreement with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement that covers screening for undocumented aliens at the county detention center, who are suspected of crimes threatening public safety. "We are looking for the worst offenders who are here victimizing our citizens here in Harford County," he said at the time.
  • Gahler was also critical of NFL players’ decision to kneel during the National Anthem to protest social and racial inequality, particularly that shown by police toward blacks. “The embarrassment that is the NFL continues and people wonder why I am on strike,” Gahler posted on Facebook in September 2017, after Baltimore Ravens players took a knee during the anthem prior to a game being played in London. “Ravens join the nonsense of taking knee while on the soil of the Country we gained our independence from. Will be doing a housecleaning of any Ravens merchandise later today and getting it all ready for the burn,” Gahler wrote.
  • In 2013, Gahler called for “more guns, not less” following the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and a failed amendment at the federal level to require background checks of all gun purchasers. "As God-awful as Sandy Hook was, the answer is actually more guns, not less,” he said.
  • In 2017, he supported bills sponsored by Harford legislators that would allow people attending worship services to carry a firearm for self defense. “Can you think of anything more egregious than being in the house of the Lord and someone coming in with ill intent?” Gahler asked at the time.
  • In February, Gahler joined Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis in Annapolis in opposition to House Bill 786, which would regulate shotguns and hunting rifles similarly to handguns.