Mayor fights 2 bills he says damage police

February 27, 1992|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke says he doesn't want the City Council to "micromanage" the Police Department. Yesterday he persuaded the Board of Estimates to recommend rejecting two bills he said would do just that.

Mr. Schmoke said the measures were inspired by a Fraternal Order of Police dispute with Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods. He said the council should not be meddling in the Police Department's internal affairs.

One of the resolutions would allow police officers to wear their uniforms if they work second jobs as security guards. The other would allow the Police Department to pay overtime salaries from a fund that holds funds recovered from forfeited property recovered in investigations.

The bills are non-binding resolutions, which do not have force of law and only convey the intent of the council. But each measure, Mr. Schmoke said, "unduly interferes and politically meddles with the discretionary powers of the police commissioner."

The board's "no" vote does not kill the measures. It sends them back to the City Council for public hearings bearing the board's stamp of disapproval. Hearings will be held before final council action.

Don Helms, president of the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, said that allowing officers to wear uniforms on second jobs increases police presence at no cost to the city. But Mr. Schmoke said the uniforms confuse the public. He supports a compromise: allowing officers to wear Police Department baseball caps and windbreakers so that citizens know they are dealing with an officer who is off-duty.

The issue of using the forfeited-assets fund for overtime may not be settled so easily.

Police officials have restricted use of that money to such costs as new equipment, although federal guidelines allow using it for salaries. Board President Mary Pat Clarke supports using the fund, which holds about $450,000, for overtime pay.

But Mr. Schmoke said the resolution "has more to do with politics than with policy."

"That overtime would go like that," he added later, emphasizing the last word. "So yes, there's a short-time benefit to the police officers in their paychecks, but to the community there's no long-term benefit."

Mr. Helms disagrees, saying that everyone benefits if officers are on the street longer hours. "If the fund's dried up and it's gone, well, then, it's gone. But you had those people out on the street for a time."

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