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Entire police force suspended in Mid-Atlantic town

Police car lights. (Dan Scanlan/Florida Times-Union/TNS)
June 03, 2024

Residents of Ridgely, Maryland, are demanding answers to the sudden suspension of the entire police force, about six officers, without explanation on March 13.

The suspension was announced in a cryptic statement by the Maryland Police Department, which read, “The Commissioners of Ridgley (the ‘Commissioners’) suspended with pay the entirety of the Ridgely Police Department (the ‘Department’), effectively immediately, pending investigation by the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor.”

Despite questioning, no further information regarding the suspension, investigation, or cause was immediately shared with the approximately 1,600 residents.

Though the statement elaborates that town officials are collaborating with sheriff and state troopers to provide continued emergency services, residents are expressing alarm over the lack of transparency, according to interviews with Fox News.  

“What’s very concerning is that they didn’t communicate with us in an honest and open way,” Laura Cline, a longtime Ridgely resident, said. “Treat us with respect. We’re adults — thinking, rational adults who deserve the truth.”

“We were blindsided,” Holly Justice, a spa owner in Ridgely, added. “It makes you question the integrity of people who are supposed to protect and serve.”

READ MORE: Video: Police car goes airborne, flips through intersection

While clarification regarding the suspension was not provided, Caroline County Sherriff Donald Baker issued a statement to Ridgely residents, pledging to provide continued coverage, according to WBOC.

“I want to reassure Ridgely’s citizens, and the entire community of Caroline County, that their safety is our top concern,” Baker continued. “We know how important it is to keep public safety services running smoothly. We’re committed to working closely with the Maryland State Police to make sure Ridgely gets the coverage it needs.”

While crime in Ridgely is historically low, this is not the first brush with potential scandal the police department has endured. In 2018, the officer-related restraint death of 19-year-old Anton Black made headlines. Black’s family prevailed in a wrongful death lawsuit against Ridgely and two neighboring towns as the off-duty then-chief had assisted in the arrest.

Following Black’s death, Maryland passed new regulations regarding police accountability procedures in 2021, which led to some speculation regarding the potential cause of the sudden investigation. However, WBOC reported that an anonymous source explained the suspension and investigation are related to improper disposal of surplus goods, including weapons, by the police force, as well as incomplete background checks on new officers.