To Politicians, State Police Are Pawns In Fiscal Chess Game

October 27, 1991|By Mike Smith Guest columnist

The Maryland Troopers Association has supported teachers, health care workers and other public safety employees in the past; we presentlysupport these vital workers and will continue to serve as advocates for them in the future.

However, a misconception is being disseminated that the loss of public safety, teaching and health care positions is substituting for firing troopers.

None of the above classifications of employees are being sacrificed in place of the Maryland State Police. Job restorations were paid for with other cuts within our own budget.

I don't want false impressions to misguide the teachers, nurses or anyone else into believing that they are in an "us" against "them" competition with the state police. Also, speaking for Carroll County Lodge 20 of the Maryland Troopers Association, I wish to call to the attention of the citizens, who pay the salaries of all government employees, the fact that the state police have not asked that your taxes be raised.

We troopers are extremely grateful to all who spoke out against the injustice of using the Maryland State Police as a pawn to negotiate an increase intaxes. We think that the state government does need to be pared downto fit the size of the pocketbooks of the citizens who pay the bills; we just adamantly protest cutting the front-line firemen, policemen, teachers, nurses, etc., as a tactic similar to holding a gun to thecitizen's heads to raise revenues.

This is an old ploy now being used in a more vicious manner than ever before. The Maryland State Police just happened to be the first target this time.

Our politicalleaders in the Senate, House of Delegates and local county commissioners are acting responsibly by wanting to study the entire budget to cut excesses and non-essential programs instead of essentials. We support these efforts, which will come to fruition when the state legislature comes back into full session in January 1992.

The Maryland State Police, as an agency, has acted over the past 18 months to slashexpenses -- not only reducing car usage, uniforms and supplies of all types, but also freezing vacancies as they occurred, hurting services throughout the agency.

Tens of millions of dollars have been cut from the original state police budgets during the prior 18 months and just before the recent controversial firings. President Patrick V.Drum Sr., of the Maryland Troopers Association, disclosed that "the restoration of state troopers is the result of alternative cuts within the state police budget. There were no cuts made in local jurisdictions or other state programs to keep troopers."

The most recent ofmany of the total cuts absorbed in the MSP budget included $2,040,000 in overtime pay reserves and $590,000 in the clothing allowances ofplainclothes troopers. These two examples are merely a small portionof a long list of cutbacks.

Although some of the troopers who were fired have been told they now won't be terminated, the barracks at College Park and Security are still slated to be closed, while 29 recruits in the police academy and 22 civilian support personnel are still targeted to lose their jobs through no fault of their own nor withany consideration to seniority or performance.

The governor is correct; there is a shortfall in state income. The legislature is correct; an intensive review of the budget should be made instead of arbitrary cuts. The state police got caught in the middle of this disagreement between the governor and legislature.

The superintendent of state police is a competent administrator who has directed, over the past year and a half, that savings be made across the board in all areas. His troopers have dutifully followed orders, as always, and foundmassive savings in hopes of avoiding the recent discharges.

The state police firings are suspiciously political in nature, as are the subsequent attacks on local health departments, police, fire and school employees.

Lodge 20 of the Maryland Troopers Association advocates a careful study of the state fiscal situation by both the legislature and our governor. We respectfully suggest that any necessary reductions be made in an orderly fashion and on a managerially sound basis.

Finally, thank you one and all for your overwhelming and sustaining support. You have boosted our spirits throughout these most trying times.

Mike Smith is president of Carroll County Lodge 20 of the Maryland Troopers Association.

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