Four floating 'initiative officers' are key to new Baltimore Co. Police strategy

July 26, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

The idea of using a new state law to force the quick eviction of a Dundalk drug dealer on July 17 came from Baltimore County Police Capt. W. Thomas Levering, the department's Drug Reduction Initiative Officer.

But Captain Levering doesn't directly command the two North Point precinct detectives whose testimony in District Court provided the evidence to have the man evicted from his apartment within the 72 hours the new law allows.

The captain is one of four "initiative officers" whose positions were just created as part of a major reorganization designed to change the way police business gets done.

The other three will specialize in crime prevention, community policing and so-called "Values Based Policing," which deals with racial, religious and ethnic incidents and victim-witness issues.

The four captains report to Major Ernest L. Crist.

The captains are supposed to coordinate police activities in their specialties -- but without staffs of their own. They're expected to use officers in existing units. This is a dramatic departure from the traditional police practice of setting up a new unit, with its own bureaucracy, for each new program.

The plan was developed from a model used by Westinghouse Corp. The tricky part, police Chief Cornelius J. Behan acknowledged this week, will be preventing internal turf wars from developing.

"We have 51 different drug programs," Chief Behan noted.

That means it's Captain Levering's job to determine which units should do more than they do now, and which ones less.

"He's to talk to the rank and file to get their good ideas," Chief Behan said. He will not directly command any of those programs, but can influence them through their commanders.

The changes are expected to help the department weather the county's budget crisis by having police support units do more than one thing for more than one boss.

With the department of just over 1,400 sworn officers down 150 positions from last year, patrol cars parked to save gas and detectives filling vacancies in the patrol ranks, Chief Behan is hoping the long-planned move will produce better results with less manpower.

But not everyone is happy with the plan.

Burglary detectives have filed a grievance because they've been placed in a division separate from other plainclothes detectives, according to Lt. Tim Caslin, president of the county police union. The change will make it harder for burglary detectives to move to other detective squads within the department, and they don't like it, Lieutenant Caslin said.

The new internal structure is now official, though it won't be fully implemented for several more weeks, Chief Behan said. It divides the entire department into four divisions besides the chief's office, which also houses internal affairs, the legal section and the public information office. They are:

* The Office of Policy Analysis and Development Services, containing the new initiative captains, budget, planning and quality control.

* Technical services, responsible for communications, records and computers.

* The Crime Prevention and Community Policing Bureau, containing the street patrol divisions, detectives and crime prevention specialists.

* The Human Resources Bureau, which includes personnel, training and psychological services.

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