Harford County is blessed with many wonderful, professional law enforcement officers.
They are also our parents, our siblings, our spouses, our neighbors and our friends. They are human and, like the rest of us, susceptible to making mistakes.
Unlike many of us, they are brave people who risk going into harm’s way every time they start a shift patrolling our county. Most of them go quietly about doing their business, an occupation that without warning suddenly and without warning can turn deadly dangerous.
Thank goodness, many law enforcement officers work their whole careers without facing life threatening risks posed by bad people doing bad things, or by bad things just happening to good people. Even in the quiet times of law enforcement, particularly in Harford County, the professionalism on display on a regular basis is reassuring.
It’s not surprising that two of them – one a Harford County Sheriff’s deputy and the other a Bel Air Police officer — received prestigious awards recently for outstanding work they’ve done.
Cpl. David McDougall, a supervisor with the Harford County Narcotics Task Force, was chosen by the National Sheriff’s Association as its Charles “Bud” Meeks Award – Deputy Sheriff of the Year for Merit.
McDougall’s work with the Narcotics Task Force led him to tracing drug dealers from outside the county, who were supplying lethal opioids at the heart of the addiction epidemic exacting the same terrible toll on lives in Harford as elsewhere in the country. During that work, McDougall discovered that it was not only drug dealers running outlaw operations, but also Baltimore City Police officers.
Members of the infamous Gun Trace Task Force were indicted on charges of operating an illegal operation, enriching themselves at the expense of drug dealers and others in Baltimore City.
“As the sheriff of Harford County, I am pleased with this much-deserved national recognition of Cpl. McDougall’s hard work, investigative efforts and tenacity that led to the discovery and eventual arrests of the corrupt officers of the Gun Trace Task Force,”Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, who nominated McDougall, said in a statement. “These were police officers who used their positions of trust and authority to victimize the citizens they had sworn to serve, and whose actions serve to villianize the dedicated police officers who come to work each day to serve and protect.”
The role of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office in this investigation and how far it should go to pursue people doing bad things, obviously, come into question in this matter. There are no easy answers.
“Sadly, this investigation resulted from the loss of life of one of our Harford County citizens, again reminding us that criminals and drugs have no jurisdictional boundaries and our efforts to identify, and arrest those involved must be unfettered by these borders,” Gahler said.
How far is too far? How many resources devoted to leads taking Harford investigators out of the county is too many? Gahler intimates there is no boundary too far. Those and other jurisdictional discussions are complicated issues for another day.
Today is for celebrating McDougall’s national award as well as Frank Graziano, Bel Air Police Officer First Class, being named the Maryland Municipal League’s Police Executive Association’s Top Cop.
In addition to his overall extraordinary performance last year, Graziano, 47, who has been with the Bel Air Police since 2001, was honored for starting CPR to revive one person and for alerting a family that their residence was on fire and leading them to safety.
“I’m proud of him, for what he did for the year and for representing this police department,” Bel Air Police Chief Charles Moore, said. “Two life-saving events in a year is pretty incredible.”
Harford County has some pretty incredible law enforcement officers, and we congratulate McDougall and Graziano for being two who received such public recognition of their efforts.