Officers back away from no-confidence vote on acting chief

Shanahan shows up at meeting union requested with Owens

April 08, 1999|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

County police officers backed down from calling for a vote of no confidence in acting Police Chief Thomas P. Shanahan when the embattled chief arrived unexpectedly at a meeting this week between union members and County Executive Janet S. Owens.

Owens, who was invited by the Fraternal Order of Police, went to the meeting Tuesday night to show her support for Shanahan. She answered questions from the officers for a half-hour in a closed-door meeting at the lodge in Crownsville.

William T. Wild, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he invited Owens to "get to know the membership" but he did not "specifically" invite Shanahan.

Officers remain upset at the treatment they said they received from Shanahan during recent contract negotiations.

Owens discussed the county's tax cap, which she said severely limited the salaries of county employees. She also said the appointment of a police chief was "imminent," according to sources who were at the meeting.

A retired officer asked Owens to have Shanahan step out of the room so members could speak without fear of reprisal, but she ignored the request, the sources said.

Notices were posted on a computer message board used by FOP members calling for retired police officers to put the no-confidence motion on the floor. Current officers said they feared transfers and reprisals from the chief if they introduced the motion.

The bulletin board also called for the formation of a "counter-intelligence committee" to look into Shanahan's past.

FOP members say that because Shanahan showed up unexpectedly for the meeting the motion for the vote of no confidence never materialized.

The Fraternal Order of Police has "no opinion" on whether Shanahan should be named chief, Wild said.

"I don't know what kind of chief he would be," Wild said. "We would have to see how it goes."

Owens declined to comment because it was a closed-door meeting, said her spokesman, Andrew C. Carpenter. Neither Shanahan nor his public information officers returned calls asking for comment.

County police officers ratified a contract Friday, ending two weeks of bitter squabbling among Shanahan and his officers. The contract includes a 3 percent raise and put an end to a two-tiered retirement system.

But Wild said county police remain underpaid and Owens is "committed to fixing that."

"Our priority was clear for next year: It is to fix the salary," he said. "Not everybody was happy [with the contract]; it was the best that we could do."

Negotiations became prickly the morning of March 26, when 10 to 15 county police cars lined the median of Route 100. It was intended as a "show of solidarity," union officials said, but instead disrupted traffic and caused a minor accident.

Shanahan was irate with the officers and began using county police helicopters to monitor them. Eight air patrols over 12 days cost the county more than $2,000.

Shanahan also ordered officers to get permission from a supervisor before traveling on Route 100 -- a major highway connecting Interstate 95 to eastern Anne Arundel County. Officers say response time to emergency calls was slowed because of delays in getting permission.

Shanahan's tactics were "strong-armed and offensive," according to officers active in the union.

Pub Date: 4/08/99

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