Police get OK to hire 30 retirees for jobs at desks, freeing officers for street patrol

January 04, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Police Department won approval yesterday to hire about 30 retired city officers to take over administrative jobs, a move aimed at freeing active-duty officers for street patrol.

The unanimous vote by the Board of Estimates is another step in a plan by Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier to reassign 325 officers to positions where they will have a direct impact on fighting crime.

The retirees will handle some desk jobs now done by uniformed officers.

"We see it as a win-win proposition from all viewpoints," said Maj. Walter Tuffy, who is in charge of shifting officers from desk duty to street patrol -- an initiative announced in April and expected to take 18 months to complete.

"I think this is a very good move for the department, the city and the retirees who have good experience that we don't want to see lost to other police departments," he said.

The president of the police union, Officer Gary McLhinney, said he would rather see the administrative slots filled by active police officers because of the sensitive nature of some of the jobs.

But the union head said hiring retired officers is better than putting civilians in the jobs.

Retired officers will do background checks on new recruits, record criminal complaints over the telephone and staff police activity centers.

"We support putting more police officers on the street," Officer McLhinney said. "But I do have a concern that the department is attempting to reduce their labor cost by hiring employees at a reduced salary."

The retired officers are being hired on a contractual basis for one year and will work full time.

Contractual employees usually are approved on an individual basis; yesterday's vote by the Board of Estimates allows the department to hire about 30 at one time.

Mr. Frazier announced in April plans to move 325 officers from desk jobs to patrol after a consultant found that 42 percent of the city's 3,100 police officers do not patrol local streets.

Police officials said they have now moved 159 officers to street patrol. Many more will be shifted when the Central Booking and Intake Center goes on line for all nine police districts. That will allow the station lockups to be shut, eliminating the need for booking officers. Two district lockups have been closed so far.

Hiring retired officers will be cheaper than using active-duty officers or civilians.

Col. Joseph Bolesta, chief of the human resources department, told the board that an active officer costs about $30 an hour in salary and benefits. A retiree would earn $12 to $15 an hour and would not be eligible for new benefits.

How many applicants the department will get is unknown. Officer McLhinney said: "I don't know that you'll see a lot of retired police officers banging down doors to work for this agency."

But Major Tuffy said commanders estimate "that we are going to have a healthy hiring pool to choose from."

A department spokesman said the "phone has been ringing off the hook" from retirees seeking employment.

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