The county police union voted unanimously Tuesday night to oppose salary concessions being sought by County Executive Robert R. Neall.
"We have given up so much already," said John Ogle, president of thecounty Fraternal Order of Police union. Last year, FOP members were the first to agree to give up their salary increases.
Neall announced a possible 3.6 percent pay cut for county employees last week, designed to cover $7.9 million the county would lose under the governor's plan to reduce a $450 million state budget deficit. Neall said he needs the cuts to avoid laying off 500 to 600 county employees.
About 200 officers showed up at FOP headquarters in Crownsville Tuesday night for an emergency meeting originally designed only to hush rumors of automatic layoffs, Ogle said. No vote was scheduled. But a motion was made to oppose any concessions and adopted unanimously.
Although union vice president Dennis Howell emphasized that the union does not support a tax increase, sentiment during the two-hour meeting was that county employees should not bear the burden of covering the county's expenses.
Additional cuts in revenue should "be shared with all Anne Arundel County citizens," Ogle said in a prepared statement.
He said he was concerned layoffs within the department would hurt police services to county residents and jeopardize officer safety.
"As times get bad, we need police protection," he said, noting the rise in crime that often accompanies economic travail. "There are not jobs out there for people -- and where are they going to get the money?"
Police Chief Robert Russell has just inaugurated a new plan that realigns patrol beats for better coverage of certain areas. Yesterday, Russell said that cuts, if necessary, would be made from such areas as traffic safety, crime prevention and othersupport services.
"We are going to sustain the patrol force," he said.
Russell supported Neall, however. "I don't know that he has any alternatives," he said.
The FOP is the first of 10 unions representing county and school-system employees to formally oppose the wage concessions.
Frank Stokes, president of the professional firefighters union, said he and other union officials had been working withfire Chief Paul Haigley before all this happened to find ways to cuttheir budget without cutting into personnel or services.
He said the union plans to meet sometime next week.
The county's two locals of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employeesalso planned meetings. Leaders of the two unions have been adamantlyopposed to wage concessions so far.
Local 582, which represents 950 blue-collar workers, was scheduled to meet last night. Local 2563,which represents 370 clerical and technical workers, will meet tonight.
"We're not planning a vote," Local 2563 president Carol Buttrum said. "We're asking people to bring cost-cutting proposals. We willask the membership what they think of wage cuts, but so far we haven't gotten any calls in favor of it."
Neall spokeswoman Louise Hayman said county officials aren't sure what will happen if some unions oppose wage cuts while others favor them.
"If one union says yes, we could give them pay cuts, and if another union says we'll take layoffs, we could do that," Hayman said. "But the problem is some unionscross department lines. There are a whole bunch of complications. We're trying to lay out all the what-ifs so they'll know what their options are."
Reporter Paul Shread contributed to this story