Sussex County Delaware

State Tells Sheriff
to Remove Lights

Sussex County Council ...

Threatens to Suspend
Vehicle Registrations

Sussex County Online Publisher

GEORGETOWN -- In another controversy involving Sussex County Sheriff Robert Reed, the state's secretary of public safety has told the sheriff to remove the red emergency lights from sheriff department vehicles by Oct. 15, 2000, or risk the loss of those cars' motor vehicle registrations.

After a meeting with Reed, Lt. Todd Mumford, and Sussex County Administrator Robert L. Stickels on Sept. 22, 2000, Delaware Secretary of Public Safety, Brian J. Bushweller, ordered the sheriff to respond with a compelling reason why he should allow the red emergency lights to remain by Oct. 1.

When Reed's department failed to respond by then, Bushweller faxed another letter on Tuesday, Oct. 3, ordering Reed to remove the lights by Oct. 15 or provide a compelling reason why they should be allowed to remain.

Failing such a response, Bushweller said he would suspend the motor vehicle registrations of any sheriff's department car that still had the red emergency lights by then.

At issue is the sheriff's department's interpretation of its responsibilities versus the interpretation of council members and administrators and the Delaware Department of Public Safety.

Reed, hoarse from a cold, asked Lt. Todd Mumford to address an obviously frustrated council about the issue at council's regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2000.

Mumford said it was the sheriff's department's position that the lights were appropriate for sheriff's vehicles because the state constitution and code refer to the sheriff's departments in several sections in terms that could be construed that the sheriff and deputies are police officers.

"After meeting with Secretary Bushweller, I reviewed the Delaware code because it was evident to me that under current Delaware law, a sheriff's vehicle does qualify as a police vehicle," Lt. Mumford told council.

Mumford said the code does not define a police vehicle but does use the phrase "sheriffs, constables and other police officers," inferring that sheriffs and constables are considered to be police officers.

Mumford said a letter to that effect was being drafted for Secretary Bushweller but that the undermanned department had not had the time to meet the Oct. 1 deadline.

Stickels said that Mumford and Reed should have at least requested an extension of time from Bushweller to avoid the kind of threat the county now faces regarding its sheriff's vehicles.

Mumford said he would contact Bushweller on Tuesday, Oct. 3, to let him know that the department's response was forthcoming.

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