Police chief wants 20 more officers

January 27, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Staff Writer

Howard County police Chief James Robey wants to add 20 officers to his department -- a manpower boost he says is necessary to to keep pace with the county's rapidly expanding population.

If County Council members approve of the request for about $675,000, which will be included in County Executive Charles I. Ecker's proposed budget that will be presented in March, the new officers could be on the street early next year, Chief Robey said.

"The fact that the economy has improved makes me feel better about being able to provide what we want to," Chief Robey said.

The department's authorized strength -- the maximum number of officers -- would be boosted to 317 sworn officers, the most in it's 42-year history. The present authorized strength is 297, but four retirements this year have reduced the number serving to 293.

About 210,262 people live in Howard, but the county planning and zoning department projects that the population will increase to 223,051 by April 1995, said county planner Roselle George.

The police department spent about $1.3 million to add 39 new officers in December after making do for three years of economic recession without any hiring. Vacancies were left unfilled, increasing the demands on officers, Chief Robey said.

"Our officers are spread pretty thinly now," Mr. Ecker said. "We need to add some. We need them to prevent crime, to catch it and solve it faster."

Chief Robey also said the department's new Scaggsville District station is set to open in February.

County police are handling 86,000 service calls a year and, with significant population increases, police will be even busier.

"When you have a growing population, you have to keep pace in providing those services," said Steven Keller, a police department spokesman. "We can do that a lot better with more."

The new officers' salaries and benefits would account for about $675,000 of the department's 1995 fiscal budget, which has not yet been calculated, said Ray S. Wacks, county budget administrator.

The department's current budget is $20 million.

The recruiting process for the 20 new officers would start after July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, with officials taking applications and conducting background checks. The police candidates would then begin six months of training at the Howard County Police Academy, graduating early next year.

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