Superintendent redefines role of state troopers

January 20, 1993|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Maryland State Police will be dropping some duties later this year but paying additional attention to white-collar crime and other investigative work, Superintendent Larry W. Tolliver announced yesterday.

State troopers will continue their role in policing interstate and other major highways in Maryland -- particularly targeting drunken drivers and drug traffickers, Colonel Tolliver said.

But the top state cop said his troopers' involvement will be reduced in everyday activities in larger counties that have their own police departments, including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

"I think we have been spread too thin," Colonel Tolliver explained. "The state police can no longer afford to be all things to all people. Some metropolitan county departments are nearly equal in size to the entire state police complement."

State police also will virtually stop policing Baltimore-Washington International Airport by mid-June, putting about 20 troopers back on the street. They will complete a phased withdrawal from policing the Port of Baltimore by June 1, moving another five troopers to other duties. The state Department of Transportation will police the airport, and the Maryland Port Administration will resume providing its own security.

Colonel Tolliver said some administrative duties now handled by troopers will be shifted to civilians, a change that will put 76 more troopers on the street, he said.

The superintendent is eliminating the vacant position of deputy superintendent as well, he said, because "it was just a buffer zone between me and everyone else. I don't need someone screening what I do."

Criminal investigation work is to be expanded to include computer crimes, white-collar crimes, intelligence on "hate groups," carjackings, a witness-protection program, a high-risk warrant service unit and continued participation in 14 drug task forces in the state.

"I want the state police to be a well-rounded police department that will serve as a role model for other police agencies," Colonel Tolliver said. "Hopefully, we will be like the FBI for the state."

He said troopers will be better trained to "make quality arrests," not only for traffic violations but for criminal offenses such as drug trafficking.

The superintendent's announcement was an elaboration of revised duties for state police touched on by Gov. William Donald Schaefer in his State of the State address before the General Assembly on Thursday.

The governor told legislators that state police would have a new mission, including "a major investigating unit, statewide efforts to reduce car thefts [and] work with federal and local officials on drug efforts."

Colonel Tolliver said he plans to achieve improved efficiency by eliminating or consolidating some units and divisions. About 88 percent of the state police force's "sworn" law enforcement personnel are assigned to policing duties.

Colonel Tolliver said some changes are planned to increase that percentage.

The agency has 1,685 "sworn" law enforcement positions and 728 civilian jobs, but 206 jobs remain vacant because of attrition. The agency has been unable to fill them because of budget cuts.

The agency's current operating budget is nearly $164 million, with a proposed increase to about $189 million in the next fiscal year. The superintendent said the proposed budget includes about $51 million in state aid to other police departments that his agency distributes.

Counties that request state police aid, such as the resident-trooper program under which troopers function as something of a local police department, will continue to receive it as long as the jurisdictions pay the cost, the colonel said.

Officials in Carroll County, which has no countywide police agency, have asked the state police to continue the resident trooper program. The Westminster barracks has a staff of 88 troopers, 46 of whom participate in the resident-trooper program.

When Colonel Tolliver was given interim command of the state police nine months ago -- amid grumbling that he achieved the appointment through his long-term relationship with Governor Schaefer -- he promised to be a hands-on leader.

Colonel Tolliver won the job on a permanent basis in September. He appears to have quieted his critics through administrative changes and given his troopers a feeling of job security -- a morale problem raised when Governor Schaefer eliminated some state police jobs and barracks in early budget-cutting.

Since assuming state police command, Colonel Tolliver has restored a recruit class that was dropped in November 1991 because of budget cuts, promoted more than 200 troopers, once again allowed troopers -- with some restrictions -- to take their patrol cars home with them, and ordered new vehicles and equipment, including better bulletproof vests that must be worn at all times.

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