Police report merits action CARROLL COUNTY

January 11, 1993

Carroll County will have to pony up $250,000 this year to pay for 19 new cruisers furnished to resident State Police troopers who effectively serve as the county's police department.

It's a reminder of the mounting expense involved in Carroll's resident trooper program, the only such force in the Baltimore metropolitan area. It should also prod the county commissioners to take the first step toward establishing a county police force.

A study committee created by the county commissioners last year recommended the phase-in of a county police force over five years, beginning this July. The annual cost come 1998 would be $5 million (including residual trooper support.)

That's more than the $3.2 million (and rising) that Carroll now pays for the 44 resident troopers assigned to the county. But shrinking state subsidies mean the county could soon be paying the full bill anyway. And Carroll's rapid growth will quickly outstrip available State Police resources.

Costs are important. But if the county is to take charge of its future, and of its responsibilities to current residents, it must have full control of and accountability for its law enforcement agency.

State troopers are essentially responsible to Pikesville, which controls their career advancement and pension benefits, as well as Carroll police administration and operations.

That control is important. Resident troopers in Carroll, for instance, do not make available the type of public records and reports that are usually open to citizens in other counties. The state's excuse is that troopers are too busy to do the same paperwork that their county police colleagues do.

Resident troopers have convenient access to the State Police barracks and records system. But that access is strictly limited for Carroll County officials who use county tax dollars to pay these resident troopers' salary and expenses.

With a population of only 130,000 and a painfully tight budget, Carroll County needs to insist on keeping the resident trooper program for now.

But the county's needs are expanding, as is its income. The commissioners should stop ignoring the study committee's thoughtful recommendations and make a New Year's resolution to start the process toward a county police force, before the mileage runs out on the new patrol cars.

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