Money, Staffing Questions Raised By Police Committee

March 01, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — The county-run police department already is fighting for officers, adequate work space and money.

And that's before the force even gets off the ground.

As the commissioner-appointed group of 10 law-enforcement expertsmet Wednesday night to hash out more financial and logistical details, some in the group expressed doubt that the model force they are drawing up for consideration will meet the county's police needs two orthree years from now.

"Who knows, by that time, 66 officers may not be a reasonable figure," said Kenneth L. Tregoning, the state police lieutenant who is commander of the Westminster barracks.

He hastaken the lead in formulating costs associated with the prototype force the committee is sketching.

What the committee knows at this point, however, is that a 66-officer force based in a county-owned school, office building or warehouse is going to cost at least $4.4 million to operate by July 1996. And it could rise substantially higher should 66 officers be too few to enforce the law in all 432 square miles of Carroll County.

The committee is close to completing plans for a prototypical county force, so that they may analyze whether sucha force is an economical and viable alternative to the current Resident Trooper Program administered through the state police.

That program -- in place since 1974 -- consists of 43 state troopers and provides the bulk of law enforcement in Carroll.

So far, plans for a county-run force -- should the committee come out in support of one -- call for it to be phased in as the Resident Trooper Program is phased out.

In July 1993, a chief, a lieutenant and a secretary would be hired. By July 1995, 50 officers and 11 non-police personnel wouldbe on board, while the Resident Trooper Program would be left with 11 officers.

One of the biggest expenses -- the set-up of an officers' retirement system and the payment of benefits from that system --is still unknown.

And while the figures the committee is working with now show a full county-run force can be put in place for a totalexpenditure of $11 million between now and 1996, the costs associated with the retirement system could push that considerably higher.

"You're probably talking big bucks," said Steven D. Powell, the county budget director. "And there isn't a whole lot of money around rightnow."

The committee was appointed late last year by the commissioners. The group's charge -- to make a recommendation on the merits and costs of a county-run police system -- is the fifth such look at the matter in 20 years.

Commission President Donald I. Dell is said to favor the formation of a county-run force, because, as he said at the committee's initial meeting, "If we're paying for it, we might aswell have a say in how it's run."

The committee is to have a report by April 1.

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