Sophocleus, Gary debate policing people, and budget CAMPAIGN 1994

October 30, 1994

The two candidates for Anne Arundel County executive were at the newsroom of The Sun in Pasadena on Oct. 10 to debate. Democrat Theodore J. Sophocleus, a state delegate and former County Council member, and Republican John G. Gary, a state delegate, were questioned by three Sun reporters for more than an hour. What follows is an edited transcript of that exchange.

Mr. Gary, it costs about $66,000 to train and equip each police officer added to the 600 the county already has. How many more patrol men and women can county taxpayers afford to put on the street?

Gary: I believe in the current budget -- and it will depend on how the revenues run -- that you can assume that you are going to have approximately $30 million growth in the budget if you have a 4 percent growth each year. So assuming that you set your priorities for some type of standard pay raises for the general work force, as well as an increase in the cost of government, which are the non-personnel items that you have. Taking that in mind, I projected that you can probably afford 20 police officers a year, possibly more, depending on how the economy holds. If that's the case, you need 20, plus some staff support. That's what I have in my blueprint of a budget and I believe is affordable under the current tax cap that we are working under. If the revenues for income are true then you have a higher revenue gross, then I believe you could possibly put more than that on. But, being conservative and being within a realistic frame, I believe that 20 is about the number that would be affordable under current expenses.

Sophocleus: Basically, I have said the first two years of our administration would need about 49 officers. This was to implement the program of neighborhood policing in overlap shifts, which would cost about $1.2 million per year. You just take that portion and our new growth is one way of doing it and another way will be establishing a conservation program within the county. That will save anywhere from $2 million to $4 million under current expenses. So, we will be able to save that money and certainly reallocate in different areas.

Gary: One other item I think is important, we both said and I have said it before, and I think we both intend to do it when we come to office, is that all of our personnel staff has to be reviewed to see if it is functioning in the manner that it should. There may be some cost savings by restructuring the Police Department and if there are, then you can put more police officers on the street.

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Mr. Sophocleus, describe your concept of neighborhood policing and differentiate it from current police operations and your opponent's plan.

Sophocleus: Basically, neighborhood policing involves using sectors to divide the areas in which your police officer operates ,, under. You actually use existing neighborhoods as boundaries. The other thing we do is bring in an overlap shift in police so that there is more coverage, they can see there's more availability, that's why you need the additional police officers. We also want to do some things, if possible, within the community itself in little strip centers or shopping centers where you have a storefront where people can get involved more. Take Back Our Streets is a good example, the PACT operation, that was where you bring specialized police officers into an area to get rid of the crime, you target areas with that. You don't impact the neighborhood numbers in known terms of police that are involved there so that's another step forward. We're concentrating more on drugs, drug users, drug sellers on the streets with these PACT units. Also, in our crime package we have a portion of it that identifies the repeat offender -- who keeps track of them, where they are at all given times. We can certainly evaluate it in mode of operation, if you will, within a neighborhood. So, it changes the philosophy a little bit from those concepts of a certain area that overlaps neighborhoods to a neighborhood concept with more neighborhood involvement, the opening of facilities, gyms, where the people can go, gather, and communicate, play ball, have meetings. But it's going to take involvement from the communities. Also, leaning toward a high-tech DNA testing, smart car -- they have what they call surveillance vans, different things that allow us to bring the police together in a neighborhood rather than going back to a central location.

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