Anyone who believes delivering a civil summons is a safe and easy job needs a good lecture from Cpl. Cheryl Hurley, a deputy in the Anne Arundel County Sheriff's Office.
Her most harrowing experience in her nine years as a deputy came while trying to deliver a summons.
"I got out of the car, and there they were -- two pit bulls," Corporal Hurley, 43, recalled. "I backed up one step, and they attacked. All I saw was teeth and eyes and hair coming at me."
One dog chewed her left ankle, while the other tore a muscle in her right calf. The deputy used her flashlight as a club.
"I just kept beating and beating," she said.
Finally, the vicious canines released their grip.
She needed thrice-weekly physical therapy sessions to recover from her wounds and was so traumatized by the incident she was assigned to indoor duty for the next year.
"I'm over it now," the corporal said, but confessed she is still wary when she serves a summons at a home that has dogs.
Corporal Hurley, who lives in Bay City in Queen Anne's County, is one of six deputies who make up the civil process unit of the sheriff's office. Along with Lt. Jack Webb, Sgt. Richard Smith, Cpl. Michael Katunick, Cpl. Mose Calloway and Deputy Valerie Honablue, Corporal Hurley roams the county daily.
Lieutenant Webb covers the vast countryside of southern Anne Arundel, where he might have 10 to 45 miles between stops. Sergeant Smith has Glen Burnie, and Corporal Katunick has Linthicum, Hanover and Brooklyn, all heavily developed areas. Corporal Calloway has Severn, Fort Meade, Jessup, Laurel, Crownsville, Millersville and Crofton.
Deputy Honablue covers Annapolis. Corporal Hurley's bailiwick is Pasadena, Arnold, Cape St. Claire and Severna Park.
Corporal Hurley's travels on Friday took her as far south as Revel Downs off U.S. 50, as far north as Freetown and points in between.
Delivering a civil summons is only part of the duties of the civil process unit. They also deliver divorce papers, writs of possession (to inform a homeowner that a bank has foreclosed on a mortgage), writs of garnishments, witness summons and zoning violations.
Anyone receiving a notice about the reading of a will can expect to see a deputy sheriff. The civil process unit also delivers writs of execution -- sent to individuals and businesses to let them know their property has been seized as a result of a court settlement.
During custody disputes deputies bring in both parents for an emergency hearing so a judge can determine who has legal guardianship. Judges may order deputies to retrieve the children from a parent who doesn't want to give them up. Deputies also can close bars and liquor stores delinquent in paying state unemployment insurance or taxes.
Delivering summonses to juvenile court is a big part of their job. These summonses double the workload. Separate ones are delivered to the child and each parent. If the parents live apart, that means going to two addresses.
The recent countywide surge in juvenile crime -- police arrested 17.2 percent more juveniles in 1994 than in 1993 -- has increased the number of juvenile summonses delivered.
On Friday, Corporal Hurley arrived at work around 7 a.m. and found 50 juvenile summonses waiting. Deputies normally deliver 15 to 25 summonses a day.
"Kids 14 and up are doing a lot of wild and crazy things," said Corporal Hurley as she sat at her desk, separating the summons by geography. Juvenile crime is especially hard on the parents, most of whom are "normal, hard-working people who are giving their all and really trying," she said.
"You can see the pain on their faces," she said of the parents. "They can't believe their babies are doing this kind of thing."
After her morning clerical work -- she acts as the department's quartermaster, ordering uniforms and equipment -- she placed the day's 75 summonses into a shopping bag and headed out.
Her first stop, a juvenile summons in the 700 block of Match Point Drive, hit a snag. No such address existed.
After a few more stops, she went to Chesapeake Middle School to give the principal a summons ordering him to appear as a witness in a sexual assault case. When he protested that he would be out of town the day of the trial and only had secondhand knowledge of the incident, Corporal Hurley explained that a call to the state's attorney's office would straighten out the matter.
Most of the juveniles and their parents weren't home. For them, Corporal Hurley left a card in the door with her phone number.
Lt. Elizabeth Smith, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, greeted Corporal Hurley when she returned around 2 p.m. for a lunch break.
"The hardest part of the job," Lieutenant Smith said, "is not knowing what awaits you on the other side of the door."