In 1982, when Baltimore County Police Chief Cornelius J. Behan tried to get Baltimore police officials to agree to a reciprocal arrest arrangement, he got a firm "no."
One high-ranking city police official was quoted at the time as saying that an off-duty city officer who sees a crime in progress in the county should "call a county cop" rather than intervene as a private citizen.
Now, pressured by a string of shotgun robberies that started in October, Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke has decided that it's time to conclude a reciprocal arrest agreement.
Schmoke announced his decision together with Baltimore County executive Roger B. Hayden yesterday at the Pikesville Holiday Inn, where a gang of bandits shot a motel worker Feb. 28 during an armed robbery. All that remains is for officials of both jurisdictions to iron out details of a written agreement.
The agreement would allow city police to make arrests in the county and vice versa. The accord also would protect officers' immunity from civil suits when they act in their official capacity in another jurisdiction.
Baltimore County already has such agreements with Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford counties and with the State Police, who also serve as Carroll County's police force.
City police have resisted Behan's proposal, saying that officers who live in the county should not be burdened with the tension of being "on the job" when off duty.
Behan cited several incidents in making his case in 1982. In one, county police, worried about potential lawsuits in the absence of a reciprocity pact, refused to help Howard County officers after they had chased a car thief into Patapsco State Park on the border of the two jurisdictions.
Currently, officers investigating leads in another jurisdiction, absent a reciprocal arrangement, must call and request a local officer to accompany them, police said. If no one is available, the investigation must wait. If an off-duty officer sees a crime in progress in another jurisdiction, he has no more power to act than a private citizen would.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods said yesterday that "the criminal does not see boundaries, so why should the police?"
He stressed that both departments are constantly sharing information about the current robberies and other crimes and have a good informal working relationship.
Now that Schmoke has decided on the agreement, Woods said, any differences between the city and county should be ironed out quickly.
One of those involves pursuit policies. City officers are generally prohibited from high-speed chases, while county officers have more discretion because they often patrol on highways and rural roads.