Howard County's police chief plans to put officers to work solving community problems ranging from loitering youths to proliferating potholes.
Chief James N. Robey Jr. said he is appointing a panel of officers headed by Lt. William Jeffrey Spaulding, a patrol watch commander, to draft a "community-oriented policing" plan. The 285-member department would put the program into effect by the start of next year.
The county executive's citizens' advisory panel will also recommend such a program next month, said William E. Eakle, chairman of the group.
Community policing has become the rage in law enforcement circles nationwide.
Baltimore County pioneered the program in 1983 by setting up a special unit called Citizens Oriented Police Enforcement (COPE), said a police spokesman, Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger.
The program has since been expanded to every precinct, he said.
"All the precincts are involved in some kind of community-related project, such as why a business has so many alarm calls to studying a stretch of Route 30 in the Reisterstown area to determine why there have been so many serious and fatal accidents there," Sergeant Doarnberger said.
"The program has diminished fears in communities where we were working. Overall, I would say the citizens have bought into the concept to such an extent that it would be hard to do without it," he said.
Chief Robey maintained that the newly proposed program "is not a PR gimmick. It is a way of solving community problems, and it should help reduce the workload because instead of responding to complaints, we will try to solve the underlying problem causing the concerns."
Chief Robey estimated that 80 percent of calls for police assistance are service-related rather than crime-inspired.
Baltimore's Police Department plans to adopt a similar program later this year after the department adopts a five-year plan in November, said Dennis S. Hill, the department's spokesman.