Taneytown’s mayor and City Council on Wednesday announced that they will hold a closed meeting Saturday to discuss the city’s police department, just days after its former chief, William Tyler, was federally indicted on charges of illegally possessing and transferring machine guns.
The elected officials will meet “in executive session to discuss what additional investigative steps should be taken to ensure there is no systemic deficiencies within our department,” Mayor James McCarron said Wednesday at the monthly workshop meeting.
“This is an opportunity for the city to review its policies and procedures within an aim of reinforcing that the city’s police department is following the best management practices and community policing,” he added.
McCarron after the workshop meeting told the Times that the Saturday meeting would be closed to the public because the lawmakers and city staff would be discussing personnel. The mayor and Councilwoman Diane Foster, the mayor pro tem, said they could not elaborate on what would be discussed at the meeting.
McCarron did acknowledge that a police officer remains on administrative leave. Tyler and another officer were placed on leave after agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives executed a search warrant Jan. 15 at the police department, Tyler’s residence in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, and the residence of another police official in Fairfield.
FBI activity was also reported Jan. 15 on Mile Trail in Fairfield. Taneytown police Sgt. Brian Jestes lives on Mile Trail, according to the Adams County Tax Services Department.
According to a 2019 Taneytown police roster, obtained by the Carroll County Times through a public information act request, Tyler and Jestes were the only police officials that listed addresses in Fairfield.
The city has not confirmed that Jestes is the officer on administrative leave.
Tyler resigned Jan. 30 and five days later was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possessing and transferring two Ruger .223 caliber, model KAC556 machine guns between Nov. 8, 2017, and Jan. 15, 2019.
It’s unclear based on charging documents how Tyler obtained the machine guns, as the federal search warrants remain sealed.
However, a former ATF agent and a local machine gun dealer told the Times on Tuesday that the automatic rifles described in the federal charges would be easier for a law enforcement official to purchase for their department than they would be for a member of the public to legally obtain.
Taneytown elected officials in September received an anonymous complaint about its police department signed by a “concerned officer.” The complaint called into question the police department’s leadership and alleged that equipment — including ammunition — was regularly purchased for personal use. The Times obtained the complaint through a Public Information Act request.
The Sept. 7 complaint letter claimed the department is “ruled by fear,” naming Tyler and his second-in-command, Lt. Jason Etzler, who is now the acting chief with Tyler having resigned.
The lawmakers called in Tyler and went into a closed session immediately following a public council meeting Sept. 10 to discuss the complaint. The mayor and council chose to take no further action, later telling the Times that they had reservations about acting on an anonymous letter and that Tyler had a reasonable answer for all the allegations outlined in the letter.
“We asked the Chief [Tyler] about the issues that were raised,” McCarron said in January. “And he addressed each of the issues we raised to him and explained them to council’s satisfaction. … The ammunition that was supposedly missing wasn’t at all based on what was disclosed later.”
It’s unclear what exactly the lawmakers will address Saturday — or whether they will discuss permanent leadership for the department.
Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees, the county’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, said his department has been called upon by other municipal law enforcement agencies to perform internal investigations or audits relating to internal complaints about misconduct by officers, “so that there is no perception of conflict [of interest].”
His agency — the largest in Carroll — has also provided high-ranking officials to serve as interim police chiefs for smaller departments until the smaller agency can find a permanent leader.
“We are certainly open,” DeWees told the Times in January. “We’ve done it recently with coming in and assisting, from acting as the department chief until one is established [in Hampstead] … or internal audits of whatever issues the department’s having that they want us to look at so that we can give a good, independent audit.”
McCarron on Wednesday assured Taneytown residents that the city is committed to providing quality law enforcement service.
“I pledge, on behalf of the mayor and City Council, that our citizens will receive the best police services available,” he said, adding that the public would be provided with information “to the extent permitted by law as it becomes available.”