Baltimore sends police recruiters to U.S. military bases overseas

May 09, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

Close to one-fourth of Baltimore's police officers are eligible to retire this year, and in anticipation of filling as many as 300 vacancies, the department has sent recruiters across the Atlantic Ocean in search of replacements.

Two city police officers are recruiting Baltimore police applicantsat U.S. military bases in Germany, where the Department of Defense is holding job fairs for as many as 6,000 people whose military enlistments are nearly finished.

The job fairs are nothing new to the Defense Department, which began them in 1993 in Europe and the Far East to help outgoing personnel land jobs during post-Cold War downsizing of military bases.

But it is the first time Baltimore police recruiters have left the country in search of new officers. The department expects to have about 300 vacancies in 1994, created by retirements and the 60 new officer positions to be established July 1, said city police Col. Ronald L. Daniel.

He said roughly 700 members of the 2,900-member police force will be eligible to retire this year.

Officers may retire after 20 years and receive half their pay as an annual pension.

"We expect we will lose between 40 and 70 officers in the month of June alone," said Colonel Daniel, who until a recent promotion headed the department's personnel division.

"We're geared up to do a lot of hiring this year. The economy's picking up and there are more jobs available out there. If you can retire with half your pay and get another job, it's very tempting."

He estimated that the attrition rate should drop off in the second half of the year to about 10 to 15 officers a month.

Some of those vacancies will be filled by graduates of the current Baltimore police academy class, where 120 officers are in training, he said.

Colonel Daniel said the military job fairs -- to be held at the Armybases near the German cities of Wurzburg and Kaiserslautern -- should provide the Police Department with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of applicants.

"We find that military people make good candidates," he said.

The military personnel, who will be going to the job fairs from bases all over Europe, will be given a civil service exam and an interview, he said.

If they perform satisfactorily, they will be invited to come to Baltimore for more comprehensive testing, including a physical agility test, personal background check and psychological exam.

In his talks with officers, Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier has said he is concerned about the department's morale and its effect on officers eligible to retire. He said the department trained 278 officers last year, but lost 248 others, primarily to retirements.

In April, the department lost 27 officers to the Baltimore County police, according to the commissioner.

But Mr. Daniel said he didn't think poor morale had anything to do with the current wave of retirements.

"I don't think that morale is that much of an issue. It's certainly not the main issue. I just think that a lot of officers are eligible for retirement and are finding other job opportunities," he said.

He said 1972, 1973 and 1974 were boom years for hiring, and many of those officers have reached retirement age. Coupled with the department's tight budget, it is not surprising some officers have opted to leave, he said.

"We haven't had that many great pay raises in recent years. You can't blame people for wanting to find the best pay situation for themselves and their families," Colonel Daniel said.

Baltimore and Orlando, Fla., are the two cities sending police recruiters to the European job fairs.

About 30 other employers, including American Airlines, Amtrak, Food Lion and McDonald's, also will be recruiting at the fairs, said Paula Davis, a Defense Department official coordinating the program.

"We try to select a broad range of employers that can interest a broad range of service people," Ms. Davis said. The Defense Department keeps an automated registry of resumes of military personnel who are entering the job market.

"You've got people that want to be pilots, people that want to be managers, all kinds of things.

"But the occupation where there is the most interest is police work," she said.

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