Small Maryland Town Suspends Entire Police Force

Ridgely residents 'blindsided' by move
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 22, 2024 4:24 AM CDT
Small Maryland Town Suspends Entire Police Force
A Caroline County Sheriff’s Office vehicle is parked outside the town government and police department offices in Ridgely, Maryland, on Friday, March 15, 2024.   (AP Photo/Lea Skene)

A small town on Maryland's Eastern Shore has suspended its entire police force pending the results of an investigation by state prosecutors, a largely unexplained decision that has left residents shocked, skeptical, and on edge. With the Ridgely Police Department temporarily defunct, other public safety agencies have agreed to fill the void. But residents of the historic town of around 1,600 people are concerned about response times should they need assistance. And they remain entirely in the dark about why their police department was shut down, the AP reports.

Laura Cline, a longtime Ridgely resident, says she's frustrated with the lack of transparency from town leaders and law enforcement. "What's very concerning is that they didn't communicate with us in an honest and open way," Cline says. "Treat us with respect. We're adults—thinking, rational adults who deserve the truth." In a statement posted to the town government's website last week, officials said Ridgely's three-member commission had "suspended with pay the entirety of the Ridgely Police Department," and that an investigation is being conducted by the Office of State Prosecutor, which handles cases of public misconduct, election fraud, ethics law violations, and more.

But Ridgely Director of Operations David Crist declined to provide the AP with even basic information about the suspensions, including the number of officers on the force. The department's website says it employs half a dozen officers. "We were blindsided," says Holly Justice, an esthetician who owns a spa in Ridgely. "It makes you question the integrity of people who are supposed to protect and serve."

  • While the suspension came as a shock to residents, it isn't the first time Ridgely has faced questions about policing practices.The department made headlines several years ago when its then-chief was involved in the 2018 death of Anton Black in neighboring Greensboro. Black died after officers pinned him down for more than five minutes as they wrestled him into handcuffs and shackles. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and received a $5 million settlement from three Eastern Shore towns, including Ridgely, whose off-duty chief helped restrain the 19-year-old.
  • An officer hired last year in Ridgely had faced misconduct allegations in Delaware before joining the department, court records show. That officer resigned in January. Another Ridgely officer was hired despite having an arrest record in Delaware. While speculation has fueled the rumor mill in recent days, residents said, suspending the whole department suggests the problem is bigger than one officer.
(More Maryland stories.)

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