Do New Barracks Send a Message? CARROLL COUNTY

September 02, 1993

Anyone who has visited the Westminster barracks of the Maryland State Police knows that the three-story red brick building on Westminster Pike should be replaced. Troopers and civilian employees toil in crowded conditions, record storage is inadequate and the building's interior is well-worn after three decades of round-the-clock use.

In his five-year construction budget, State Police Superintendent Larry W. Tolliver is requesting $2.5 million to build a new facility. However, before the state embarks on constructing a new building for the troopers assigned to Carroll County, state policy makers should decide the future of the county's resident trooper program.

Carroll is the only Maryland jurisdiction where state troopers act as the county police force. During the state's budget crisis of the past three years when state officials were slashing programs, eliminating Carroll's resident troopers seemed to be a real possibility. The county even had a special committee draw up a plan to create and finance a county police force just in case the state pulled the plug on the resident trooper program.

bTC While Maryland's budget crisis seems to have abated, the future of the program is still uncertain. A bill that would have required the State Police to give the county ample notice before dropping the resident program was killed in the General Assembly. At the same time, no one has said it will end at a specific date, either. So this very critical public safety program continues lurching forward year to year.

We have said before that it is not in the long-term interests of Carroll County -- and certainly not to the benefit of the rest of Maryland's taxpayers -- to continue the resident program. Even though the county has to cover the payroll costs of 44 troopers, it receives the benefits of a well-trained police force at a fraction of the cost of establishing its own department. It's a crutch that can be yanked from the county at any time.

Del. Richard Dixon, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee that ultimately must approve the construction money, has interpreted the superintendent's decision to go ahead with a new building as a tacit sign that the resident program will continue. The people of Carroll, however, deserve a more explicit explanation about the resident trooper program's future.

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