Troopers Could Fill Police Slots

October 04, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

A dozen of the 83 state troopers fired by the governor this week will find a new home on the county police department.

The officers could be suited up and on patrol soon after the Nov. 1 firing date, meaning those hired could transfer jobs without missing a pay check.

In announcing the decision, County Executive Robert R. Neall saidthe move may save the county money by eliminating the need for a police academy and help the public by quickly filling vacant patrol slots.

"In these extraordinary economic times, I have the opportunity to give our chief of police the manpower he needs right now, getting around the delays a training academy would create," Neall said.

Some of the technical details still have to be worked out, however. That includes transferring pensions, seniority and deciding which troopers get the positions.

"The troopers have super training and will make an excellent addition to our police force," Neall said.

Sgt. Pat Drum, president of the Maryland State Troopers Association, praised the decision and said the job openings were posted at headquarters in Pikesville last night.

"Absolutely we are excited," Drum said. "We have very shaky people right now. I certainly hope we have some other offers."

Troopers have been on edge since Tuesday, when Gov. William Donald Schaefer announced his $450 million deficit-reduction plan that closes two state police barracks and grounds two medical emergency helicopters.

On Wednesday, hundreds of troopers staged a march to the State House in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Board of Public Works to reject the cuts.

Yesterday, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Prince George's, introduced a bill to extended the 5 percent sales tax on food to cafeterias in hospitals and colleges.

He said that would save the Med-Evac helicopter bases andrestore about two-thirds of the trooper positions.

But Drum said yesterday that the firings are a done deal. "I'm afraid the cuts are going to happen," he said.

Neall's offer will give at least some troopers a new chance. And it gives the county a chance to fill vacantpositions with qualified people.

"We need these officers to fill the posts to maintain full staffing," Neall said. "I wish we could domore. But we're doing what we can. The costs go beyond our desire."

Police Chief Robert Russell said the county has 36 openings on the259-member force, but only 12 have been budgeted and are exempt fromthe hiring freeze.

He said the department was planning to fill those positions by hiring officers from other jurisdictions.

Neall said he will look for ways to fill the other 24 positions with fired state troopers, but doesn't have the money right now.

Neall's proposal would put in jeopardy county police plans to open a training academy next year. Already, 1,600 people have applied and 1,000 applicants have been tested.

But if the county could fill all the positionswith state troopers, it could save the academy's $200,000 annual operating cost.

Training time also would be trimmed. An officer-candidate takes nine months to become a qualified police officer. The troopers will require a two-week orientation course before starting.

"We are very excited about the cost-saving aspect to us," Russell said, adding that the county has enough patrol cars for the additional 12officers.

Russell said the people waiting to get into the academywould simply be told to wait.

Neall said he doesn't anticipate salary to be a major problem, since county and state officers receive comparable pay.

State troopers just starting out earn $24,500 -- about $2,000 less than their counterparts in Anne Arundel.

County police spokesman Officer V. Richard Molloy said transfers usually earn 5 percent more than starting pay. But Neall said transferring troopers would not lose money.

One issue not yet ironed out is the selection of the 12 troopers.

Drum said the State Troopers Association will probably compile a list of interested troopers and then set up a selection committee to determine who gets the jobs.

Neall said he doesn't foresee anything that could stall the plans, but added nothing comes without problems. "The reward will be well worth the trouble."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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