House panel supports Crofton police force

March 01, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

Crofton residents may not notice any difference, but the Crofton Police Department may soon be taking a step up in the world.

On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would grant the department certification by the Maryland Police Training Commission. The vote was 20-1. The bill now goes before the full House.

Del. Dana Lee Dembrow, a Montgomery Democrat, voted against the measure, which was sponsored by Del. Marsha G. Perry, an Anne Arundel Democrat.

Certification would clarify the legal position of Crofton police officers, giving them protections included in the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, such as due process in internal investigations, Crofton Police Chief Deborah L. Bogush said Friday. She said certification is a preventive measure. The department has not had legal problems, but certification would give Crofton's officers peace of mind, she said.

In addition, she said, certification could place the department in line to receive state and federal grants. It would also entitle Crofton officers to coverage under a national insurance policy that pays $100,000 to survivors of an officer killed in the line of duty.

If the department were certified, Chief Bogush said, its officers would find it easier to transfer to better jobs in other jurisdictions as their careers advance, without having to go back to the police academy for recertification.

Sgt. Thomas Kinnane of the Anne Arundel County Police Department told the Judiciary Committee the bill would benefit Crofton residents and police officers. He spoke on behalf of the county administration and the county Police Department.

James D. Collett Jr., the Crofton Civic Association's director of operations, maintenance and public safety, also testified in support of the bill. He said it would give Crofton police additional rights, such as the right to be notified of possible contact with certain contagious diseases.

No one testified against the bill.

Certification would also send a message to those who have said in the past that Crofton's police aren't "real" police, Chief Bogush said.

Because of its status, the department "had to search high and low" to find a Fraternal Order of Police lodge that would accept it, she said. The Mass Transit Authority FOP lodge eventually accepted the department.

Crofton has had a police department for almost 25 years, under the authority of the Anne Arundel County police. Its officers enforce traffic laws and perform regular police functions.

The force's five officers have graduated from the police academy, Chief Bogush said, and have worked in other jurisdictions.

A similar bill introduced by Ms. Perry in 1991 failed.

Ms. Perry said that proposal died partly because it lacked clarity, and partly because some delegates did not understand the status of Crofton's police, mistakenly believing they were security guards and not police officers.

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