Future of support for county police questioned after election of Owens New executive says she'll squeeze elsewhere to get money for schools

Election 1998

November 05, 1998|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Police Chief Larry W. Tolliver kept telling people coming into his office yesterday that it would continue to be "business as usual."

There was, however, nothing usual the day after the loss in Tuesday's election of Tolliver's biggest ally, County Executive John G. Gary, the man who appointed him two years ago and poured money into his department.

Office chatter and hallway gossip was dominated by talk of Janet S. Owens, the incoming executive, and what her administration will mean for police. She vowed while campaigning to squeeze the budgets of some departments, including the police, to funnel more money to schools.

"There is only so much money to go around," said William Wild, president of the Fraternal Order of Police for Anne Arundel County, which represents 659 officers. "If everything goes to education, it kind of gives you the impression that there isn't going to be enough for everyone else."

Gary has increased funding for the Police Department by 21 percent over the past four years. He hired 101 officers, equipped them with semiautomatic handguns and purchased two Vietnam-era helicopters for the department.

Loyalty to Tolliver led many officers to support Gary's re-election bid. Despite being the first police chief appointed from outside department ranks, Tolliver is well-liked and praised for being a strong advocate for his officers.

"Morale is high, and people are motivated. You would hate to see a change, and that is what guys are worried about," Wild said. "The calls I've received today are people wondering what it looks like for the chief. We would like him to stay."

Owens' husband and campaign manager, Michael Sheehan, said in an interview yesterday that Owens "has no predisposition at all toward bringing in an outsider or leaving the existing people in place." Sheehan said Owens has not settled on any candidate for chief.

Contract negotiations are to begin in January, and officers are uneasy about possibly losing Tolliver. Anne Arundel County police are paid less than those in Baltimore and in Baltimore, Prince George's, Howard and Montgomery counties. They are rTC also paid less than the state police.

"The last contract with Mr. Gary made significant strides for increasing our wages to the levels of the surrounding jurisdictions, but as we made our increases everyone else got raises," said Dennis Howell, former president of the county's FOP lodge. "Tolliver believes in the people of the department and would go to bat for us."

Tolliver also is popular with community groups because of his aggressive strategies. He implemented a "zero tolerance" drug policy that allows officers to seize automobiles of people found with drugs.

Pub Date: 11/05/98

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