Schaefer, state board allow budget ax to fall State troopers descend on State House in force

October 03, 1991|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- It looked like a funeral for a policeman cut down in the line of duty, and in a way, it was.

Hundreds of uniformed or plainclothes state police officers, marching in rows 12 abreast, strode down Rowe Boulevard and Bladen Street to the State House yesterday to protest Gov. William Donald Schaefer's firing of 83 state troopers as part of his $450 million deficit-reduction plan.

It was the most visible of a series of public and behind-the-scenes maneuvers under way yesterday to restore the troopers' jobs.

Through various forums, troopers offered to have their pay cut by approximately 3 percent, to provide the names of officers who wouldvoluntarily take early retirement, or to arrange furlough programs that could save enough money to keep the fired troopers on the job.

All the efforts were rejected by Governor Schaefer.

Delegate Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's, chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the state police budget, said the police firings made no sense.

"Frankly, there are easy alternatives to the state police cut if the motivation is simply to reduce the deficit and not to incite public opinion," he said. "I think the state police are frankly too important to use them as a tool to incite public opinion. I think that is obviously one of the goals."

But Daryl C. Plevy, an executive assistant to Governor Schaefer, said, "That is categorically untrue." The governor, she said, "was actually upset that there was so much focus on this, because people are losing sight of the broader picture -- that there is a lot of pain being generated by these cuts [in other areas of government]."

Ms. Plevy said it was true that the governor had rejected the ideas of pay cuts, early retirements or furloughs in lieu of firing the troopers, but she said he had good reason.

Early retirements could not be accomplished quickly enough to provide the immediate savings needed and would only work if the job the retiree held was among those the state could afford to abolish, she said. If a position has to be filled, there is no savings.

Furloughs, she said, would only be a short-term solution that could not help solve the state's more fundamental financial problem and would give affected employees "a false sense of security."

The same is true of a pay cut, especially if it was temporary in nature -- as she said was proposed when representatives of the Maryland Troopers Association met with the governor Tuesday.

In addition to the pressure created by the troopers' march and the meeting with the Troopers' Association officials, representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police met with administration officials yesterday to press for restoration of the police jobs.

Mr. Maloney and 15 of his legislative colleagues from Prince George's and Howard counties developed their own proposal to save the state police jobs, offering Mr. Schaefer and the other two members of the state Board of Public Works a menu of options they said would be more acceptable than the firing of of- ficers.

The legislators said they are particularly concerned about the proposed closing of the College Park barracks in their area, as well as that of the Security barracks in Baltimore County.

The state police superintendent, Col. Elmer H. Tippett Jr., said the two barracks were selected because both are in metropolitan areas where local police forces might be able to take up the slack.

Colonel Tippett also said he did not object to his troopers marching on the State House, saying, "When you lose part of your family, you sort of get together to pull together."

Among the hundreds of troopers dressed in their starched tan uniforms and stiff-brimmed hats yesterday was plainclothes Detective Sgt. Warren Rineker, who has spent 20 years working for the state police, 19 of them arresting drug dealers.

First thing this past Monday morning, Sergeant Rineker said, he and the other six men of his Major Violations Unit were told that as of Nov. 1 they would no longer have jobs. A resident of Columbia, he said he has a wife, a 6-year-old son and big monthly mortgage payments.

"I had given 20 years, and I'm out," he said. "There just doesn't seem like there was any good reason."

He said the members of his unit, which goes after drug kingpins, are skilled in wiretapping and other facets of major narcotics investigations. By arresting big-time drug dealers and forcing them to forfeit their often-considerable assets, the unit has been able to pump money into the state's general treasury, he added.

"The general consensus [among state police]," he said of the firings, "is it is a ploy to raise taxes. If it is, it's a hell of a thing to do -- to play with people's lives."

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