Sussex County Delaware

Sheriff's Vehicles'
Registrations Suspended

 
Sheriff Vehicles ...

Cars With Lights
Out of Service

By ERIC MAGILL
Sussex County Online Publisher

Our Opinion | (Voice Your Opinion)

GEORGETOWN -- Registrations for the Sussex County Sheriff's Department vehicles with the red and blue emergency lights have been suspended, according to the Delaware Department of Public Safety.

Kimberly Chandler, community relations coordinator for the department, said the suspensions were effective as of Friday morning, Oct. 20, 2000.

Sussex County Administrator Robert L. Stickels said that as of Friday afternoon the vehicles were parked at the sheriff's department in the Sussex County West Administrative Complex on U.S. 113 in Georgetown.

He said that he offered to have the county's maintenance department remove lights from two of the vehicles to allow the department to continue its duties but was told that would not be necessary because the department was "taking care of the situation."

Sheriff Robert L. Reed, who believes the Delaware Constitution entitles his department to have the lights on its vehicles, was unavailable for comment early Friday afternoon. Sussex County Online has left a message for him to determine what his plans are now that the vehicles' registrations are suspended.

Sheriff Reed has been in a year-long battle with Sussex County Council and Bushweller over the powers Sheriff Reed believes the state's constitution gives him.

Sheriff Reed believes a couple of passages in the constitution and the Delaware Code that imply the sheriff and deputies are police officers entitles the department to exercise police powers such as arrests and traffic stops.

But Bushweller disagreed with the sheriff's interpretation of those passages and ordered that the lights be removed from the sheriff's vehicles by Oct. 20 or the vehicles' registrations would be suspended. In addition, State Solicitor Michael J. Rich determined that the passages the sheriff referred to do not make the sheriff and deputies police officers and pointed to other passages that he says show that the sheriff and deputies were not police officers.

In his letter to Sussex County Council earlier this week, Bushweller said that anyone caught driving the suspended vehicles would be arrested.

Chandler said the Department of Public Safety would not check to see if the vehicles were off the road. She said that other law enforcement agencies would be responsible for such actions as they would be for any individual they caught driving an unregistered vehicle.

She said that no one from her office had been in touch with the sheriff's department today.

Stickels reiterated that the county would not forcibly remove the lights, opting instead to offer to remove the lights from a couple of the cars.


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