WESTMINSTER — County Commissioners should hire a planner to begin work on assembling a county police force, the Carroll County Police Study Committee has recommended.
In its final meeting last night, the study committee also said the county should develop a law enforcement master plan that would improve the coordination among the county's municipal law enforcement agencies.
The five previous reports on forming a county police force "weren't as credible as this," said committee member and District Judge Donald Smith.
The 10-member group began with the assumption that the Maryland State Police resident trooper program, which provides countywide law enforcement, will end at some point in the near future, and the county ought to prepare for that reality.
Under the resident trooper program, resident troopers provide law enforcement for the county and three towns. The county and towns now paying for all the costof the resident troopers assigned to Carroll County. Before the current state budget crisis, the county paid about three-quarters of the cost.
While some members of the group -- most notably State's Attorney Thomas Hickman -- would like to see the resident trooper programcontinue indefinitely, the majority said the county must be preparedif the resident trooper program is abruptly ended.
Committee members said they would like to see the state government make a commitment to continue the resident trooper program for several years because it will be cheaper than creating the county's own police force.
The group estimates the county will pay about $3.8 million more for lawenforcement during the five-year phase-in period than for the resident troopers.
Even though the costs are greater, members of the committee said the state's commitment to the resident trooper program seems to be waning.
Morris L. Krome, chairman of the study committeeand a retired Maryland State Trooper, said the county should be developing its own police force and not be subject to the whims of the state.
Last night he told his fellow members that the commissioners will not be able to ignore this study as they have previous ones.
"I have done a lot of work on this, and I don't intend to slink away.The county has got to move," he said.
Several members said the commissioners will pay more attention to this report because they created the study group and asked it for recommendations.
In addition, committee members said this report was more professional and detailedthan previous studies.
The group said a planner can do much of work at minimal cost, including surveying sites for a police headquarters; developing specifications for vehicles, firearms, communications gear and uniforms; and writing the requests for proposals.
"Completion of these and other similar tasks would considerably improve the county's position and ability to act or react to its changing needs,"the report said.
The report also notes the county should obtain approval from the General Assembly to set aside money that could be used to form the county police agency.
Members of the committee say during this transition period, working agreements among the various police agencies in Carroll County should be revamped to ensure the citizens receive effective law enforcement.
"(The county) cannot act alone in providing law enforcement services in all areas and to satisfy all needs. A continued state police presence in the county is essential," the report said.