Was Ford's Life Seen Worth Less?That the...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Was Ford's Life Seen Worth Less?

That the murder of William Martin Ford happened in Harford County, our quiet community of PTA's, backyard barbecues and choral groups, was, to most of us, certainly unexpected. Things like that don't happen here. But, the fact is that incidents like last year's sadistic and terrifying assault on Mr. Ford in the Harford County Detention Center can happen wherever public officials become impressed with their own importance and become indifferent to citizens' rights. Conditions which promote this kind of heinous behavior do not appear overnight. . . . Complete disregard for both human value and the strict procedures which must surely be required for the operation of this kind of facility certainly prevails. Consider the facts:

Mr. Ford spoke on the phone with his mother and sisters both the day before and the day of his death and voiced fears of being raped and murdered. Obviously he had been threatened -- even terrorized. One would think that the 24 hours that passed between the phone calls and his death would have been enough time for alert and attentive authorities to become aware of a developing disaster.

The pillow case that was used to kill Mr. Ford was removed from the cell and possible evidence was destroyed when the cell was scrubbed down before the investigation.

The sheriff's office announced Mr. Ford's death two days later, ,, declaring it a suicide. The autopsy performed on the day of that announcement showed strong evidence of a murder. Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly was not made aware of this evidence until eight days later.

Sheriff Robert Comes is deeply upset at "allegations and innuendoes" from "unknown unverifiedsources," but concedes that some "procedural errors may have occurred." Is he anxious for us to conclude that the tragedy and its tangled aftermath came about because of bungling and ineptness rather than the complacency of self-satisfied low-level bureaucrats?

Which brings us to Mr. Cassilly. How can we take his complaints of delays in receiving information seriously when, once informed of the commission of a murder, he spends his time zealously pursuing pornographic bookstore owners while allowing evidence in the murder case to yellow with age and become unusable? . . . Might people have hustled just a little bit more had Mr. Ford been a policeman, lawyer or judge?

Harford County Council President Jeffrey Wilson said that the fact that Mr. Ford's death hasn't been solved "is symptomatic of the general mess we're in -- that there are larger, systemic problems in the detention center." True, as far as it goes. In fact, there are larger problems in the workings of the entire judicial system in Harford County. The system needs to be run by officials with professional training in law enforcement and a true appreciation of individual rights and the value of human life and dignity.

Are the officials involved simply not impressed with the worth of the life lost?

Frank W. Soltis

Fallston

The Pressure of Youth Sports

The two young warriors of the battery, dressed in fine uniforms, receive instructions from their field leader. They go into action to set down their foe, also a fine young warrior dressed in a neatly pressed uniform.

The warriors prepare for the initial action, all seeking the glory that may accompany the victory of the day. The battery prepares for action. The warrior hands the projectile to his comrade. He prepares to fire the projectile after he receives instructions on velocity and coordinates at which to propel it toward the warrior. The foe stands proudly, ready to defend himself against the opposition with only a bar of aluminum to drive the projectile back into the field of glory. It is propelled at him with the speed and impact that can destroy human bones, and he lunges at it with all his might.

Remember: this is only a game for kids, and one of the toughest things in sport is to hit a baseball. So when Junior or Juniorette goes down for the count, think what they just faced, along with the pressure that is thrust upon themn, and give praise for the effort.

Joseph John Bish Jr.

Bel Air

Fire Budget

I bitterly resent the misrepresentations made publicly about my positions with respect to fire company capital projects. . . .

I support the Harford County Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Service 100 percent. I have done so for the entire tenure of my office. I accept the recommendations of the Chiefs Association with regard to capital projects. I have not voiced, either privately or publicly, any reservation whatsoever about the capital projects being put forth through the administration by the Chiefs Association. I know of no one on the council who is planning an amendment to alter in any way those capital appropriations. I plan to vote for the budget with those capital appropriations in it. . . .

Let me make some affirmative statements about some other issues. The Harford County taxpayers, through Harford County government, and specifically through council appropriation in the budget ordnance, make available millions of dollars to the Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Service in Harford County. I believe we should continue to do so.

It is essential, however, that the fire and ambulance service held to the same auditing standards to which we hold Harford County government in general. . . . We must be responsible both to our total constituency, to the taxpayers and citizens of this county. We also have to be accountable in terms of public accounting standards. The Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Service, both through the Chiefs Association and the individual companies, must meet those standards. . . .

A second point about which I have expressed concern and reservation is that it is clear to me that Harford County is subsidizing southern York County (Pa.) residents with respect to fire and ambulance service. We have people move to southern York County because of the cheap tax rate and then they demand services which are provided to them through the auspices of Harford County taxpayers. This is not only in fire and ambulance service but also libraries and recreation and other types of governmental services.

I raised this point at the budget workshop with the chiefs and I'm prepared to work with the chiefs and with my fellow elected officials from Harford County in taking steps to address this issue with elected officials from southern York County. If we are going to continue to have fire companies (Citizens in Fawn Grove and Delta-Cardiff) that are bi-jurisdictional -- that cross the Mason-Dixon Line -- then the people in southern York County need to step up to bat and support those joint companies to a degree that is commensurate with the Harford County support. . .

Jeffrey D. Wilson

Bel Air

The writer is president of the Harford County Council. This is a copy of a letter written to the president of the Harford County Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Association, James B. Lyons.

Families Valued

Two interesting articles were in The Sun on May 7, "What Do Mothers Want?" and "What Do Stepmothers Want?" Thank heavens for good mothers, and thank God for good foster-parents. . . .

Children need both parents, parents need a mate.

What families need is a "Family Life Constitution," to spell out and clearly define what family is all about. The family of man also needs to be protected, so the need for a "Bill of Rights of Families."

The family is the foundation of all nations, and must be viewed as the most priceless institution on Earth. This is the challenge to the churches. How goes the family of man goes the nation.

C. S. Ivanauskas

Bel Air

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