State police chief ousts 3 top aides


Three of four top aides to state police Superintendent David B. Mitchell are being removed from their jobs as part of an administrative shake-up in the Pikesville headquarters.

The superintendent, who has been in the job about six months, delivered the news at an executive staff meeting Wednesday, offering retirement or lesser assignments to three of his four lieutenant colonels, sources said. The aides oversee operations, administrative services and drug enforcement.

A department spokesman last night declined to verify specific changes that are under way.

"There are anticipated management changes forthcoming in the Maryland State Police," Colonel Mitchell said in a statement released last night. "It is inappropriate to comment at this time on what those changes are or who they will involve, because the changes have not been made."

According to sources in the department, the three officers being removed are:

* Lt. Col. James E. Harvey, deputy superintendent and second in command of the state police. He is chief of the agency's field operations bureau and he has been with the department 33 1/2 years.

* Lt. Col. Roland J. Meerdter, chief of the administrative services bureau, which oversees personnel, training and the motor vehicle division. He has been with the department 27 years.

* Lt. Col. Terrence B. Sheridan, chief of the bureau of drug enforcement and a 30-year veteran of the department.

"None of the individuals have been fired -- they are dedicated members of the Maryland State Police with many years of loyal service," Colonel Mitchell's statement read.

Sources said it was unclear who the superintendent was considering to fill those positions. "Those choices have not been made," said one official.

The only aide at the lieutenant colonel rank apparently being kept in that position is Larry E. Harmel, chief of the special operations bureau.

Colonel Mitchell was unavailable for comment last night.

Although it is not unusual for a new superintendent to put one or two of his own people in those jobs, several troopers said they could not recall a new superintendent ever replacing so many lieutenant colonels at once.

"It's a matter of forming his management team," said one trooper.

"He has spent the last five or six months examining the agency, taking a firsthand personal look, and he is making some decisions about what he wants for the future of the agency," said another.

When he was nominated to head the state police in January, Colonel Mitchell emphasized patrolling of highways, statewide criminal investigations and more community policing.

No timetable has been set for the management shuffle, although sources said they expect the changes to be made by late summer.

Colonel Mitchell was chief of the Prince George's County Police Department from 1990 until January, when he was nominated for the superintendent post by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

In Prince George's, Colonel Mitchell developed a reputation for promoting opportunities for black officers, expanding community-oriented policing and creating a victim-witness program.

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