The naming of a "blue-ribbon" commission to evaluate and possibly reorganize the county police department has briefly been put on hold ascounty officials sort through a surprising rush of applicants.
The commission was to be announced Tuesday, but calls from about 25 to 30 citizens interested in serving on the 15-member Citizens' AdvisoryCouncil for Public Safety have forced a delay, said Beverly Wilhide,administrative assistant to County Executive Charles I. Ecker.
Officials did not invite applicants, and the calls from citizens were a surprise, said Wilhide. She said the response could prompt Ecker to add more people to the commission.
As of late Tuesday, however, most, if not all, of the commission members had been chosen by Ecker, although some had yet to be contacted and others had not told the executive whether they would accept the appointment, Wilhide said.
A list of the commission members is likely to be announced by Thursday, she said.
The commission will operate with broad authority and will study all aspects of the police department to determine its strengths and weaknesses.
Interviews will be conducted with police and citizens, and all police records will be available for commissionreview.
Wilhide said many of the citizens who have offered their services seem to have followed county police issues closely and hope the department's "poor perception problem" can be resolved.
"The people I've spoken to have said that there is definitely a perception problem and it needs to be looked at," Wilhide said.
"No one was saying that the department is a bad one. Some said, 'Let's look at it,and if it's not broke, don't fix it.' "
Two weeks ago, Ecker's decision to form the commission was hotly criticized by outgoing countyPolice Chief Frederick W. Chaney, who said the in-depth study of thedepartment was unfair and unnecessary in light of the department's national accreditation last year.
In December, Ecker notified Chaney that he must resign by March 1. A new police chief, who Ecker says he hopes will have stronger community relations skills, is to be appointed by Feb. 15.
The commission will be comprised of one citizen appointed by each of the five County Council members, as well as one member each from the county Bar Association, clergy, high school student body, business community, police union, and state's attorney's office.
Ecker said he also will appoint a county police lieutenant or captain to the commission.
Commission members will investigate such areas as training, management development, community relations, internal investigation and use-of-force policies, a county government outline said.
"The panelists will be selected for their strong commitment to Howard County," the outline said, adding that the commission will be set up as a "short-term investigative body."
The council will report their findings by June 1 and then disband.
Ecker said he expects to abide by the recommendations made by the commission,whether they are minor policy changes or sweeping changes within thedepartment.