Resident state trooper to quit his 2-town beat

April 24, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

After 12 years patrolling the roads in northwest Carroll County, Tfc. Phil Henry has decided to leave his job as a resident state trooper in Union Bridge and New Windsor.

Trooper Henry, 45, said he is not certain whether he will retire from the state police when he becomes eligible July 1 after 23 years of service.

"I just requested to try something new. I talked to my wife and just decided it was time," he said.

Another resident trooper, Tfc. John Dunn, 34, a 16-year veteran, will begin work in the towns July 1.

Trooper Henry's salary and full-time duty is split between the two towns. But some residents complained to their municipal officials that "our police officer is never around," or "doesn't do anything" to stop crime.

Trooper Henry would not comment specifically on the complaints residents made about his performance. "I'm obligated to serve each town 20 hours a week," he said.

Union Bridge Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. said Trooper Henry probably became disenchanted with the job when people began nTC to expect him to be on hand any time something happened.

"I think he got a little fed up with the complaints," Mr. Jones said. "There are people around here that believe he should be available to them 24 hours a day, and that's not the way it works.

"When that man is off duty, you shouldn't expect him to come out here to deal with things. But there are people who expected that."

New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said many residents of his town reacted the same way.

"The people of town had the complaint that they did not see the trooper enough, but they compared him to the former town police officer [resident Tudor Fritz], who used to be around all the time," Mr. Gullo said. "But times change, and we are no longer able to provide that service.

"My opinion is that we paid for 20 hours and that's what we got. Trooper Henry did an excellent job for us, period. He recently caught those responsible for the spree of breaking and enterings we had earlier this year. He has done his job for us.

Mr. Gullo said that "what people don't understand is that there is only so much you can expect from a man who is only supposed to spend four hours of the day here."

Police protection has been an issue in both towns for several years, and officials in both Union Bridge and New Windsor have explored providing some form of 40-hour police protection.

But they said the cost put it out of reach of the towns.

"We're looking for what we can afford. . . . We can't go with our own police officer," Mr. Jones said.

He said the only way Union Bridge could afford its own police officer would be for the people to increase town taxes by $1.50 -- an increase that would more than triple the current tax rate of 72 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

New Windsor also found the price of full-time protection too high, especially for what was troubling residents -- vandalism and petty crimes that they believed were being committed by local youths.

"We needed to have more police protection to deal with the kids," Mr. Gullo said. "But when you are paying a trained police officer to do baby-sitting, then you have to decide whether your town government is appropriately spending your tax dollars."

Both towns are encouraging residents to get involved with their own protection by supporting a Community Watch group. New Windsor has had some success with its program, which began last summer.

New Windsor Councilman Ronnie Blacksten met Tuesday with Watch coordinator Paul Garver; Matthew Hockburn, the leader of a successful Watch program in Baltimore; state police Watch coordinator James Emerick; and some local volunteers to try to solidify the program in town.

"The average person that complained about [Trooper Henry] were the ones that wanted him to act like a baby sitter," said Mayor Jones. "These people are going to have to get involved, not just look out of their windows, sit and complain."

Trooper Dunn, who lives in the Westminster area, said he hopes residents will feel comfortable about bringing their concerns to him.

Trooper Dunn also said police should not be baby sitters. He said he will talk to the municipal officials about town curfews and work to place the responsibility for youth where he feels it belongs -- their parents.

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