It’s been more than three decades since Baltimore had a new sheriff, so Sam Cogen had to do some research on what to do after being elected.
He couldn’t rely on his predecessor and former boss, who Cogen says did not work with him on the handover.
Instead, Cogen studied the law and looked at old clippings on Newspapers.com. Within 30 days of the election being certified, Cogen learned, he had to obtain a “sheriff’s bond” — a surety related to seizing property — and march it to the clerk of court and ask to be sworn in. The transition typically occurred at the end of November or beginning of December.
So when Cogen heard his predecessor and former boss John Anderson — who first took office in 1989 — had filed to retire Dec. 1, he moved to get sworn in and get started. He was accompanied by people he plans to appoint to his command staff as well as his wife and City Councilmembers Yitzy Schleifer and Eric Costello.
“I feel like there’s a sense of urgency in the city to get thing done, and I ran on that urgency,” Cogen said.
Cogen said Anderson, who was appointed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and served eight terms, refused to participate in a transition process.
“I was rebuffed,” Cogen said. “I was told the transition will occur when they want it to occur.”
Anderson could not immediately be reached for comment, but an agency spokeswoman confirmed his retirement date.
Cogen knows the office. He joined in 1997 and quickly rose through the ranks. He served as president of the sheriff’s deputies’ union, represented Baltimore in the Maryland Association of Sheriffs and was his agency’s representative to the city’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. He retired from the agency in November last year as the third-highest-ranking person in the office in order to mount a challenge to Anderson.
Cogen campaigned during the Democratic primary on a platform of expanding the use of technology in the sheriff’s office, which he says will make the office more efficient and better equipped to serve bench warrants and domestic violence peace orders. He has vowed to “humanize” the evictions process to help renters find other housing options.
One of his first orders of business will be to help supply personnel to the Mayor’s Christmas Parade this weekend in Hampden, which officials had said was threatened with cancellation over the city’s concerns it would not have enough law enforcement to cover the parade and a Ravens home game.
Cogen was not ready to name his new command staff or discuss any other personnel changes. He said that before he was sworn in, he was not able to confer with the attorney general’s office, and will now do so.
Schleifer, the councilman who represents Northwest Baltimore, said he dropped what he was doing when he heard Cogen was getting sworn in today.
“I had to witness history,” Schleifer said. “His first [campaign] event was in my living room.”
He called Cogen a “hardworking, dedicated public servant who knows what he’s doing and knows how to get the job done.”