Leonardtown, MD — The Commissioners of St. Mary’s County Dec. 8 unanimously approved purchase of 25 replacement tasers for the detention center. But the approval came after considerable concern raised by Commissioner John O’Connor [R – 3rd District] and several of his fellow board members.

The $27,875 needed for the tasers was not included in the sheriff’s department budget for the current fiscal year. Instead, the proposal is to use savings from vacancies in the department to cover the taser costs. There are currently 10 staff vacancies at the Adult Detention Center.

According to Commander of the Corrections Division Captain Michael Merican (shown at left) the monies for the replacement tasers were left out of this year’s budget by mistake.
Information supplied for the request explained, “The tasers have a five-year general useful life and require replacement. It should be noted the tasers are no longer spark tested at issuance. Now the tasers are checked weekly in an effort to preserve the life of the tasers.”

O’Connor, while saying he supported the jailers having the tasers, expressed concern about how it was being done. O’Connor has been an advocate for the salary study budgeted for this year which he says will likely show the need to increase sheriff’s department salaries to reduce the turnover in the department. He thus didn’t like using monies from that turnover to cover the taser costs.

O’Connor wondered if the monies couldn’t come from somewhere else in the budget. “It sounds like this is an internal snafu,” he said.

Merican asked if the commissioners wanted them to take tasers away from those on patrol. “That’s what I am here to tell you today. We have a problem,” Merican said. He noted that one of his men was hospitalized after a recent incident in the jail.

Commissioner Mike Hewitt [R – 2nd District] wondered if the savings from turnover couldn’t be applied to increasing salaries across the board. And Commissioner Todd Morgan [R – 4th District] noted salary over-budgeting every year and asked for more precise budgeting in the future.

“I want to break the cycle of incentives for not filling positions,” O’Connor said.

But having expressed their reservations, in the end they all went along with the request out of concern for the safety of the correctional officers at the jail.

Commissioner Tom Jarboe [R – 1st District] was not at the Dec. 8 meeting.

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com