Moves to bolster police force won't show immediate benefit Implementing ideas will take months

March 08, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Hiring police recruits and replacing desk-bound officers with civilians sounded like an easy way to bolster Baltimore County's force when County Executive Roger B. Hayden announced the moves Feb. 2.

But the bureaucracy moves slowly, and the police force won't get any benefit from the changes until late this year, officials say.

The 38 recruits authorized by Mr. Hayden won't actually begin training until July 10, said Lt. Arthur Cook, police training officer. Hundreds of applications must be screened before the class begins, and the training takes 27 weeks. Thirty-two recruits graduated last month.

Hiring civilians to do jobs now performed by sworn officers -- mainly in the crime lab and crime-analysis bureaus -- also will take months because the county has no job categories for some of the positions, said personnel secretary Richard N. Holloway.

That means job specifications must be written and the creation of the positions approved by the county's Personnel and Salary Advisory Board and the County Council. If approved, the positions must be advertised. Applicants must be tested and undergo background investigations before they can be interviewed and hired. The police department wants to hire the lab director first, so that person can control how the rest of the staff is assembled. Mr. Holloway said the full process should be complete by fall.

The 21 crime lab jobs also can't be switched at once because the new technicians will need supervision by sworn officers for some time -- to provide a smooth transition and to give the civilians credibility as court witnesses, department spokesman E. Jay Miller said.

He said several computer experts due to be replaced by civilians have special abilities that will be hard to duplicate. And he said there is concern that the civilians who gain expertise won't stick with the department as sworn officers do.

Six of the jobs due for "civilianization" are in the crime-analysis section, where officers now keep track of crime trends and specific criminals' methods.

"An officer who takes a burglary report in Parkville won't know that it's the same method used in a burglary in Towson," explained Capt. John Krach, police personnel officer, who said the crime analyst will see the similarities. Each precinct once had its own crime-analysis officer, but budget cuts eliminated them.

Crime lab commander Lt. Wayne Sindall said his officers get six to eight weeks of training before they begin going to crime scenes to take photographs, lift fingerprints, and collect blood samples, hair or other evidence.

Much of their expertise is the result of experience, which also gives them credibility in criminal cases, Mr. Miller said. Seventeen technical positions and four supervisors are authorized for the lab, though only 13 officers and three supervisors are working now, Lieutenant Sindall said.

Mr. Hayden, whose budget cuts and hiring freezes over the past two years have reduced the number of sworn county officers by 155, announced Feb. 2 that he would not lay off any officers. Some 392 county employees in other departments lost their jobs.

The executive said he would authorize a new recruit class. He also said he would turn 30 to 35 jobs held by sworn officers over to civilians in an attempt to keep the force of 1,426 from shrinking further.

The new recruit class will just about do that, as retirements and injuries keep opening new holes in the county's thin blue line. The recruits that graduated in February were the county's first since 1991.

By using detectives and support unit officers for street patrol, Police Chief Cornelius J. Behan has kept the number of street patrol officers constant, but he has stressed that detectives and support investigative units often make a bigger dent in crime than ordinary beat patrol officers.

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