County recruiting more police officers

August 05, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

The Howard County Police Department will begin training 20 new officers this fall, and another 20-recruit class is scheduled to begin as early as February.

The additions to the force are planned to solidify Chief James N. Robey's community-oriented policing program and to handle a growing number of service calls as the county population increases, said Lt. Jay Zumbrun, commander of the Education and Training Division.

The current authorized strength -- the highest number of officers allowed -- is 315. There are now 282 sworn officers in the department.

After taking into account retirements and other attrition, the new officers will boost the department's total by 20.

Placement of the officers on special assignments will not be determined until the recruits graduate, said police spokesman Sgt. Steve Keller.

In May, the Howard County Council approved County Executive Charles I. Ecker's request for 20 recruits in this year's fiscal budget, which began July 1.

The class will begin training at police facilities at the Gateway Building in east Columbia in October.

After 20 weeks of class study and 14 weeks of field training, the fall class should be working full-time duty by the end of May.

The second 20-member group is expected to complete training and beon county streets by October 1995, Lieutenant Zumbrun said.

He said the department will advertise for the 1995 academy class within two weeks. The department is encouraging applicants with foreign language and "good written and verbal communication skills" to apply, he said.

That versatility will help with the needs of the community," Lieutenant Zumbrun said.

"It will also help with community-oriented policing," he said.

The neighborhood policing plan aims to build residents' trust by setting up community-based police offices where residents can regularly interact with officers. A Citizens' Police Academy and Citizens Advisory Council have also been established to improve relations.

About $550,000 -- salary and benefits for the nine months left in the fiscal year that ends June 30, 1995 -- has been budgeted for the new positions in the October 1994 class, according to Sgt. Richard Witte, supervisor of the Budget and Fiscal Unit.

Starting salary for Howard County police academy graduates is $26,664.

Lieutenant Zumbrun said the new recruits will meet an obvious need since service calls have in creased steadily.

In 1992, for instance, when the county population was about 201,000, there were 84,166 service calls. Last year, with about 208,000 residents, there were 88,938 calls, Lieutenant Zumbrun said. So far this year, the estimated 210,000 residents have made 56,000 service calls, a pace that could produce as many as 95,000 calls by the end of the year, police said.

"When you have more people to serve, demands and number of calls go up," said Lieutenant Zumbrun. "Increased number of calls is not necessarily a bad thing. It could mean people feel more comfortable in our ability."

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