Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Call To Action: Frederick County Sheriff Department Accreditation Committee

The Frederick County Sheriff's Department is up for an accreditation review with CALEA, a national law enforcement accreditation group. There has been a public call for letters and phone calls from the community. It is time to let Sheriff Jenkins know that we have not forgotten what happened to Ethan Saylor. Tell the committee what happened and let them know that we want justice for Ethan.

Commission on Accreditation for Law
Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA)
13575 Heathcote Boulevard Suite 320
Gainesville, Virginia, 20155

Dear Assessment Team,

In advance of your audit of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office, I write to highlight my concern regarding that office's handling of Robert Ethan Saylor's homicide at the hands of three off-duty Frederick County deputies.

On January 12, 2013, Mr. Saylor re-entered a movie theater without purchasing another ticket for a showing of Zero Dark Thirty. Sheriff's deputies Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris were moonlighting as mall security that night and were called as such to attend to the situation. The three attempted to forcibly remove Mr.Saylor from the theater; confusion ensued as the guards dragged Mr. Saylor out of his seat. Soon thereafter, Saylor's companion returned to the theater and pleaded with the guards to let her take Mr. Saylor home.

The guards declined. Instead, they continued to apply force against Mr. Saylor, using three sets of handcuffs linked together to pin his arms behind his back. Mr. Saylor ended up face down on the ground, presumably where his larynx became crushed. Mr. Saylor then died of asphyxiation, all over the price of a movie ticket.

Following this homicide, neither the sheriff nor the local prosecutor found any conflict of interest investigating the case, regardless of the fact that the security guards were also deputies of the investigating office. Instead, they kept the matter in the county instead of using outside resources. The locally run grand jury failed to indict the deputies of the use of excessive force. Instead they blamed Saylor's death on his Down syndrome rather than scrutinizing the actions of the three off-duty and seasoned deputies.

Sheriff Jenkins has publicly commented on the problems of moonlighting officers. In the Maryland Community News Online Gazette, he was quoted as saying "“When [deputies] take an [enforcement] action on someone, they immediately fall back into law-enforcement status,” he said. “I’ve said all along that I don’t think law enforcement should be in competition with private security.” Despite his apparent concern about the ethics of such secondary work, Sheriff Jenkins still choose to not call for an independent investigation.

The Frederick County Sheriff's Office's handling of Saylor's homicide calls into question the office's commitment to professional excellence. It is of grave concern that three off-duty deputies, including two of high rank, saw fit to manhandle a young man over the price of a movie ticket to the point of death. Of even further concern is Sheriff Jenkins's decision to keep the matter in house rather than declare a conflict of interest. Such action gives rise to the unfortunate appearance that the Frederick County Sheriff's Office was solely interested in protecting its three officers rather than engaging in a transparent investigation of Saylor's homicide.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter,

[Your name goes here]


  1. Please take note of this petition. To give this agency accreditation at this time would be an abomination on the judicial system, to the family, friends, and advocates of Ethan Saylor. Ethan Saylor was a human being with Down's Syndrome, who had great respect for the police, yet is dead because of them. You will find a link to a video that was made by his sister that shows what a lovable, sweet human being he was. Please watch this before making your final decision:


  3. If CALEA accredits FCSO their validity as an accrediting agency will be worthless. Compare CALEA's guidance for LEA accreditation with FCSO:

    "CALEA Accreditation requires an agency to develop a comprehensive, well thought out, uniform set of written directives."

    NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER has been provided that FCSO has ANY written training guidelines. Certainly no guidelines for LE personnel in dealing with people with disability, even though there are industry standard guidance materials that have been in place for NEARLY 20 YEARS.

    "CALEA Accreditation requires a preparedness program be put in place—so an agency is ready to address natural or man-made unusual occurrences."

    How does CALEA assess an LEA's suitability for accreditation when THE LEA's OWN DEPUTIES ARE THE ONES WHO CREATED THE UNUSUAL OCCURRENCE?

    "CALEA Accreditation is a means for developing or improving upon an agency’s relationship with the community."

    OK, here's one that could be checked for FCSO, an LEA in dire need of improving relationships in the community.

    "CALEA Accreditation strengthens an agency’s accountability, both within the agency and the community, through a continuum of standards that clearly define authority, performance, and responsibilities."

    Curiously, this one could also be used in favor of accreditation, since FCSO IS IN DESPERATE NEED OF ACCOUNTABILITY.

    "Being CALEA Accredited can limit an agency’s liability and risk exposure because it demonstrates that internationally recognized standards for law enforcement have been met, as verified by a team of independent outside CALEA-trained assessors."

    Assuming CALEA-trained assessors value their reputation, the assessors linked to the FCSO accreditation bid should be backpedaling as fast as possible.

    "CALEA Accreditation facilitates an agency’s pursuit of professional excellence."

    A claim by FCSO of professional excellence would be laughable if it were not so very serious.