Bill to merge housing, city police on hold

Plan awaits agreement of continued federal funds

February 16, 2000|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Sen. Joan Carter Conway temporarily halted consideration yesterday of her bill to merge the Baltimore Housing Authority Police with the Baltimore Police Department amid questions about the proposal's cost to the city.

Conway, a Northeast Baltimore Democrat, told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee she is waiting to learn whether the federal government would continue to pay for the housing officers if they became part of the city force.

If federal authorities do not respond within the next few weeks, Conway said she will ask the committee to postpone consideration of the merger until next year. Without federal assistance, the Baltimore Police Department would absorb costs estimated at more than $12 million annually.

"The feds have to be willing to transfer the money," Conway said.

The proposed merger would instantly add 110 sworn housing officers to a struggling city force with an estimated 400 vacancies.

Mayor Martin J. O'Malley supports the proposal, as do many Baltimore legislators.

Baltimore has demolished three of its four high-rise public housing projects, which once served as the primary patrol grounds for the Housing Authority Police. The fourth -- Flag House Courts -- will be torn down next summer.

The areas have been replaced with mixed-income townhouse developments. In addition to the sworn officers, the authority has 126 security monitors in public housing for the elderly.

The federal government pays for the housing police from national public housing funds.

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