Unhappy state troopers write fewer tickets Morale dropped as budget ax fell, some say.

May 28, 1992|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Maryland State Police officials are blaming morale problems for a sharp drop in traffic citations following budget cuts that closed two barracks last winter and eliminated special privileges and benefits for troopers.

State police issued 389,874 traffic citations last year, 8,834 fewer than for the year before.

In November, immediately after the closings of the Security and College Park barracks, citations for the month dipped to 29,722, nearly 5,000 less than for the same month in 1990.

State police officials say disgruntled troopers wrote fewer tickets in the wake of budget cuts that closed the barracks and resulted in the firing of administrative and clerical personnel who had worked there. For a time, it looked like some veteran troopers would be fired as well, but layoffs were averted when a class of recruits was dismissed.

The budget cuts also resulted in a reduction in overtime pay for troopers and in elimination of perks that had allowed them to use police vehicles during off-duty hours and had compensated them for the cost of cleaning their uniforms and patrol vehicles.

In a move aimed at bolstering the sagging morale and improving the public image of the state police, the agency will be reorganized during the final 2 1/2 years of the Schaefer administration, according to Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of public safety and correctional services.

"In the next 2 1/2 years, we will expend every effort to bring about change," Mr. Robinson said. "Our direction is going to be clear. We intend to improve the image of the state police."

Mr. Robinson said the state police will expand their role in criminal investigations. To achieve that, civilians will be hired to perform some jobs now done by troopers, to free more troopers for highway patrol and criminal assignments.

Meanwhile, studies are being conducted to determine whether the MedEvac system should be turned over to civilians, and people who use the service may be charged.

Civilians may also replace troopers now assigned to the department's commercial vehicle enforcement division, which monitors trailer truck traffic, and may replace troopers who now serve as liaisons with the State Highway Administration's traffic management program, said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., spokesman for public safety and correctional services.

Plans also call for curtailing the state police role in providing security for several other state agencies, including Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and terminals run by the port administration.

The final five state troopers assigned to the Maryland Port Administration are to be removed June 1, 1993. The state police began providing security for the port administration several years ago to curb theft and mismanagement problems.

Troopers will be removed from BWI June 15, 1993.

Mr. Robinson said he intends to actively assist Col. Larry W. Tolliver, recently named interim superintendent.

"There's a big job ahead for Mr. Tolliver," Mr. Robinson said. "He will be responsible for the day-to-day operations. One of his strengths is to perpetuate change."

A nationwide search for a permanent superintendent, being conducted by a private Washington group, is expected to take 6 months. Colonel Tolliver is among the candidates.

Colonel Tolliver said he will work to improve the public image of the state police. He was scheduled to meet with high-level staff members today to discuss his immediate plans for the agency.

"I am going to assess the entire agency," the acting superintendent said. "I am going to call in the entire staff and go over the entire budget. I will be a major force. They are going to know that Tolliver is around."

One of his first obstacles is restructuring the command staff. Lt. Col. Gary E. Moore, commander of special operations; Lt. Col. Roland H. Hayman, commander of field operations, and Maj. William H. Hurley, assistant chief of field operations, have announced their retirements effective July 1.

Twenty-seven other state police personnel have put in for retirement by the end of the fiscal year, according to Capt. Johnny Hughes, state police spokesman.

Sgt. Patrick V. Drum Sr., president of the Maryland Troopers Association, said that group supports a change in the agency's law enforcement role.

"Changes have been due for a long time. We need to get into the 1990s and out of the 1950s. Many people, when they think of a trooper, they think of a guy standing along the highway handing out traffic tickets," Sergeant Drum said.

"Morale is low, we have lost a lot of benefits and we don't know what our mission is," the sergeant said. "Colonel Tolliver is the guy who has been designated to lead the way. He is from within the agency. We'll have to get behind the guy so that he can get us out of the rut that we are in."

Despite the agency's problems, state police officials went out of their way to praise a particular barracks yesterday, saying they were proud of work done by troopers at John F. Kennedy Barracks, on Interstate 95 north of Baltimore. Officials said troopers there had not succumbed to morale problems crippling other barracks.

JFK troopers last year issued 30,843 citations, 8,518 warnings, made 529 drunken-driving arrests and handled 7,653 disabled vehicles.

In addition, troopers there recorded 356 narcotics stops, including several major cases involving interstate rings. They also arrested 213 fugitives, recovered 50 stolen vehicles and arrested nearly 1,000 other suspects for various violations, Mr. Sipes said.

He said troopers at JFK were young and enthusiastic.

"They know what to look for, such as minor things like rusty bolts on brand new license tags," the spokesman said.

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