Town to keep resident trooper after promotion Mount Airy officials say town will make up the pay difference

January 11, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

When Mount Airy resident trooper Cpl. Palmer Grotte receives a promotion Wednesday, he won't make the usual transfer to a new assignment with the Maryland State Police. Town leaders are taking an unusual step to keep "their" trooper.

The town government agreed to make up the approximately $3,000 difference between the salary Grotte received as a corporal and his pay as a sergeant, his new rank. The arrangement, which required the approval of State Police Superintendent Col. David B. Mitchell, allows Grotte to act as the equivalent of a town police chief.

As supervisor of Mount Airy's five resident troopers, Grotte will have desk supervision responsibilities similar to those of most sergeants. But he will spend part of his time on the road rather than solely at the desk as a barracks duty officer would, said 1st Sgt. Eric Danz.

A promotion usually means a transfer because state police officers on the promotion eligibility list have to go where an opening exists, and that is rarely at the officer's current barracks, said 1st Sgt. Andy Mays, supervisor of Carroll's resident troopers. Mays said some officers have turned down promotions that would require long commutes.

In Carroll County, resident troopers have been serving as the county police force since 1974, when state police signed an agreement to provide countywide law enforcement, investigative services and aid to town police and the county sheriff's office. This fiscal year, the county will pay $3.4 million to keep 50 troopers on duty. Six other Maryland counties have resident troopers.

Grotte said he was happy to accept the town's offer. "I've got a good group of guys to work with down here and I've developed a lot of friendships in the town," he said.

Town Council President R. Delaine Hobbs, the council police committee chairman, decided to offer to make up the cost difference after state police officials told him in July 1997 that Grotte would probably be promoted by the end of the year.

"Our resident trooper program has been working extremely well under his leadership," Hobbs said. He said he doesn't know the exact additional cost, but it will be no more than 1 percent to 1.5 percent of the $338,000 police protection budget for 1997-1998. He said the money will be taken from capital reserve or surplus funds.

Grotte, who has been a Mount Airy resident trooper for 4 1/2 years, said he likes the personal friendships that are part of police work in a small town. "It's being able to communicate with citizens on a personal basis, really getting to know them personally instead of just in passing," he said.

Most of the police work in Mount Airy is traffic enforcement and community policing, Grotte said. Traffic is a major concern, particularly near the three schools in town, he said. He also emphasizes having the troopers under his supervision establish relationships of respect and trust with the community.

"I like my guys to be out of the car, talking to people," Grotte said. By building working relationships, the troopers will be better able to solve crimes in the community, he said.

Two other corporals from the Westminster barracks were also promoted to sergeant. Both will transfer to the Centreville barracks.

Pub Date: 1/11/98

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