Essex, North Point police precincts are merged Pilot project has major heading new Eastern area

July 10, 1996|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's Essex and North Point police precincts have been merged under one major in an experimental reorganization that Chief Terrence B. Sheridan says will help fight crime and save money.

Maj. Michael K. McCleese, who was commander of North Point Precinct, took over this week as commander of the newly formed Eastern area -- a move that also was a step back from the decentralization plan begun by the former police chief.

Sheridan said yesterday that he chose the eastern area of the county for the experiment because of its geographic, social and economic similarities.

When Sheridan took over the 1,535-member department in April, he said would review the decentralization plan that put majors at the head of each of the county's nine precincts. Former Chief Michael D. Gambrill promoted those majors two years ago amid a trend toward community policing that began a decade earlier with his predecessor, Chief Cornelius J. Behan.

Under that plan, precinct commanders used more officers for crime prevention, neighborhood problem-solving, burglary investigations and youth activities.

Each of the majors is responsible for patrol and community policing efforts.

Sheridan has said he is not abandoning community policing, but is trying to make the department more flexible to deal with rising crime. Consolidating two precincts under one major will ultimately improve police service, he said.

"We will have to see how this works for a while," he said. "We will see if one major can effectively and efficiently run two precincts."

Sheridan said he has not set a time limit on the experiment.

A major's salary is between $48,470 and $61,369 -- money that could pay for additional patrol officers.

"I don't think this department is top-heavy compared to other metropolitan departments," Sheridan said. "Ultimately, there is going to be a dollar savings."

As part of the move, Maj. Tom Canning, who headed Essex Precinct, was made the permanent administrative hearing board chairman.

Capt. James Johnson will take over as commander of Essex Precinct, and Capt. Michael J. DiPaula will command North Point Precinct.

In December, 42 federally funded officers will graduate from the police academy and form a special squad handling community crime problems rather than routine patrol work. They are receiving specialized problem-solving training, Sheridan said.

"They will go into a community and deal with problems that have cropped up," he said.

Pub Date: 7/10/96

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