County police officers won't be getting additional help in the coming year, and more than half of the department's current 46 vacancies will remain in 1993.
Police Chief Robert Russell's 1993 budget request, submitted to the county executive earlier this month, included money for hiring four new officers. But, according to two police sources familiar with Russell's budget request, the money for the new officers has already been cut by County Executive Robert R. Neall.
Like other county agencies, the police department will be affected by Neall's plans to cut the county work force. The department will be authorized to fill about 20 of the existing 46 vacancies, however,the two sources said. Overall, police officials say they are expecting a no-growth year, with just enough money to maintain the status quo.
Neall is expected to release his proposed 1993 county budget tothe media this afternoon. At 11:30 a.m. Friday, he will deliver his budget message to county officials.
The possibility of staffing reductions drew immediate fire from police union officers, who criticized Russell for not being aggressive enough in the annual budget process.
"I can't believe Chief Russell is asking for so little, knowing that the crime rate is up," said Dennis Howell, vice president of the police union. "It doesn't seem like him to put his men in jeopardy."
Howell complained that there is a perception among the rank andfile that Russell is not in charge of the department.
"They really don't know who is running the department," he said. "Is it (Deputy Chief Robert) Beck or is it Neall who's running the show?"
Russelldefended Beck, but said he shares the union's concern about staff cutbacks.
"We are going to move as quickly as we can to fill as manyvacancies as we can," Russell said. "But you can only work within the economic confines you find yourself in. Mr. Neall has a certain amount of money he has to work with."
Russell insisted that reducing officer ranks would not jeopardize the public or officers' safety.
Howell said the union would like to see all the 46 vacancies filled because as many as 30 officers could be taking early retirement in coming months.