Put Public Safety First

Readers write

December 04, 1991

From: David Etheridge

Hampstead

In the Nov. 27 edition of the Howard County Sun, an article ("County workers to be furloughed for five days") stated that some 400 employees from other Howard County departments signed a petition asking County Executive (Charles I.) Ecker and the County Council to requirepublic safety employees to accept this five-day furlough, "along with everyone else."

Reading about this entreaty caused a parade of questions and concerns to surface. As a police officer for the county for nearly two decades, a road cop for most of that time, I don't ever recall an occasion when such a sizable group of county employees rallied so hard for the sake of "equality."

To those 400 or so employees, why is it that public safety employees have to work 24 hours a day, seven days week, every day of every year (including all holidays), while the majority of non-public safety employees work a basic 7 1/2- hour day, Monday through Friday, weekends and holidays off?

Because of legitimate concerns for the lives of the public and those ofyour co-workers, does your job have, or require, minimum staffing requirements? With your job, could a delay in the delivery of your service mean the difference between a citizen, or another employee, living or dying?

If you answered the questions above fairly and objectively, you should have come to the conclusion that, in the overall scheme of providing services to the public, public safety jobs are not "equal" to your own.

Additionally, why is it that the vast majorityof you are willing to accept the furlough days, while the county's police officers and firefighters overwhelmingly rejected this idea? It's not because we think we deserve to be treated better than you. We just know that our jobs demand a different, higher degree of responsibility and regard for the safety of the public, our co-workers and ourselves.

To the politicians who may consider furloughing public safety employees because it's the "fair thing to do," I suggest you askyourself if it's the "smart or safe thing to do."

Serious crime is already up in the county 20 percent for the first nine months of this year. Is having fewer police on duty really a responsible decisionand in the public's best interest?

Finally, to the hard-working, law-abiding, taxpaying citizen: Kids carrying drugs and handguns inside of schools are not limited to Baltimore city. It's happening in schools right here in Howard County! Since it cannot be predicted when and where crime may occur, or who will be its next victims,do you think that even fewer police is what we need?

If you feel your publicsafety employees should be working at full strength in their effortsat protecting you and your family, I urge you to call your district representative at 313-3101 or County Executive Ecker at 313-2013.

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