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Harford sheriff-elect names chief deputy, continues review of command staff

Harford County Sheriff-elect Jeff Gahler has filled another top position, that of chief deputy, as his time to take office moves closer.

The Republican Gahler, who defeated two-term incumbent Democratic Sheriff Jesse Bane in the Nov. 4 election, named a Sheriff's Office veteran, Steven Bodway of Belcamp, as his chief deputy and second in command.

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Gahler is scheduled to take office Dec. 1. He said Monday he and the members of his transition team are continuing their review of each command position in the Sheriff's Office, which is anyone above the rank of captain.

"There are some other moves pending, but the people affected haven't been notified," he said of prospective command staffers.

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Gahler said those between the rank of deputy and captain "can be assigned whatever position best suits the needs of the sheriff and the Sheriff's Office."

"Every position's getting assessed to see how many positions we can return to patrol, back on the street, serving the community," he explained.

Bodway, 59, will take the place of Col. Edward Hopkins, who served as Bane's chief deputy for about five months.

"I spent many, many years with the Sheriff's Office, so I'm looking forward to going back and working with them again," Bodway said.

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Bodway spent 28 years with the Sheriff's Office, from 1980 to 2008. He retired as a major in charge of the administrative bureau.

He served in that role for two years, which was the cap on a career that included 10 years as a patrol deputy, being one of two founding members of the traffic unit, serving in criminal investigations, internal affairs, as watch commander at the Southern Precinct, commander of the court services division and as commander of the Harford County Narcotics Task Force.

Bodway ran against Gahler in the 2010 Republican primary, one of four candidates who sought the nomination that was won by Gahler, who went on to lose to Bane in the general election..

"Our bonding began" after the primary, explained Bodway, who endorsed Gahler in 2010 and worked actively for him in the most recent campaign.

Since he left the Sheriff's Office, Bodway has worked for Pinkerton, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based international corporate security firm founded in 1850, and he has campaigned for Gahler.

Gahler said Bodway "was probably my closest adviser during the campaign."

"I bring the outside leadership," Gahler, a retired Maryland State Police captain, said. "He's going to be my person with the internal knowledge of the organization."

Gahler has also named retired Sheriff's Office Maj. Michael Capasso, 52, of Bel Air, as the warden of the Harford County Detention Center.

Capasso, who has 25 years of corrections experience with the Sheriff's Office, retired in 2012.

He served as officer in charge of the jail, with part-time supervision from then-Chief Deputy Gregory Carlevaro, after the previous warden, Elwood Dehaven, retired in late 2011.

The jail did not have a full-time warden until Charles Moore, a former Maryland State Police captain, was appointed by Bane this past summer.

Capasso said he sees "the opportunity to bring effective leadership back to that building, to try to right some of the wrongs that were imposed on the detention center and to bring them into the 21st century."

"I want to make leaps and bounds into the future," he said.

Gahler also hopes to implement a senior deputy program for corrections deputies, and he asked for a study on what it would cost to reward corrections deputies for at least 10 years of service.

He said law enforcement deputies who reach the rank of senior deputy after 10 years receive a 6 percent pay raise.

"I'm committed to ensuring the correctional deputies get the same recognition and the same rank structure as the law enforcement side," he said. "We're going to see what that cost structure is, but that's something I want to implement right away."

Gahler said he also plans to conduct a review of the Sheriff's Office helicopter program. The agency obtained a Bell OH-58 helicopter, a federal surplus aircraft, in late 2013, and Bane created a 10-person aviation unit that includes two pilots and eight tactical flight officers.

The Sheriff's Office did not have to pay anything for the helicopter, but a study determined it would cost about $300 an hour to operate it.

Creating the new division brought Bane some criticism, including from Gahler, who challenged the need and cost.

Bane released a report during the campaign that stated Eagle 1, as the helicopter is named, assisted in 94 missions, "10 resulting in the apprehension of a suspect, 11 successful in locating a missing person or stolen property, one storm damage assessment, five assists to other agencies and six community events, as well as routine air patrol flights," while also noting that on 22 occasions, "Eagle 1 was first on the scene."

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