As the state budget crisis of 1991 continues into 1992, Carroll residents join the rest of Maryland in holding their collective breaths at proposed budget cuts.
Chief among the worries: Will the state police budget be cut and, if so, where?
The budget crisis has awakened many county and municipal governments around the state to the dilemma of state funding for police protection.
While Maryland's larger counties and most municipalities have their own departments, several counties, including Carroll, do nothave a county-funded police department.
Many still use the Resident Trooper Program and must examine possible avenues of replacement if the state cuts any deeper into the police budget.
Carroll must be ready if the state decides to further cut or even eliminate the Resident Trooper Program.
Carroll now has 48 resident troopers, with the county paying 75 percent of the cost and the state 25 percent.
State cuts last October slashed $300,000 from the resident trooper budget for Carroll. The commissioners were able to restore $150,000 ofthe money cut, and the troopers in the Westminster barracks made up the difference with "in-house" cuts of their own.
Commissioner President Donald I. Dell has said that if Carroll has to pay the full cost of the Resident Trooper Program, we might as well have our own county police force.
In November, the commissioners formed a committee to study possibly forming a county police force.
There are several questions that must be examined and answered before the future path for police protection in Carroll can be determined.
Will Carrollbe able to purchase the current state police barracks from the stateto house a new county department?
What would it cost for the valuable property on Route 140?
State police have said that the barracks is too small. So why would it be suitable for a county police headquarters?
Could Carroll buy used police cruisers and other vehicles from the state and repaint them, or would a new fleet of cars have to be purchased?
Would Carroll build a crime lab, buy sophisticated equipment and hire specialists to staff the facility?
What wouldit cost to buy new weapons and uniforms for a county force?
How many administrative and support personnel would have to be hired?
What would it cost for liability insurance for a new police force?
What about the cost of communications equipment?
It's certain the county will not be given the materials and facilities in use in Carroll.
This study committee will have to be thorough in its research and specific in its recommendations. Very specific directions and guidelines are required for this study group to be effective.
The solution will not come easily or simply. The committee will need facts and input from Carroll and state law enforcement officials.
Whatever Carroll officials decide, we the citizens must be absolutely certain we are being provided with the best law enforcement we can afford.