Balto. County councilman suggests increasing number of traffic officers

September 26, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Hiring more traffic officers, not dispersing the ones on staff among the county's eight police precincts, is the most effective way to bolster traffic enforcement, a Baltimore County councilman has suggested.

Councilman T. Bryan McIntire's suggestion came in reaction to a recent proposal by police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan to restructure the department's traffic unit.

"I think the Baltimore County Police Department is one of the finest in the country. I also feel that traffic enforcement is the weakest link," said McIntire, a Republican who represents Owings Mills and the north county.

"Are we putting enough emphasis on traffic enforcement if we are 20 people short?" he asked.

The councilman said he receives more complaints about traffic than any other issue, and that several roads in his district are traffic hazards, particularly Owings Mills Boulevard and Garrison Forest Road, where speeding is a problem.

Sheridan has said he will divide the 64 officers in the department's two traffic units - one stationed in White Marsh, the other in Woodlawn - among the eight precincts beginning Jan. 1. Sheridan said he wants precinct commanders to have direct responsibility for the enforcement of traffic laws in their areas. He also said he believes that traffic and patrol officers should work more closely together.

Sheridan's plan was criticized in an internal report commissioned by the chief. The study said the change could create an unwieldy bureaucracy and overburden precinct commanders, who have had to assume broader responsibilities in recent years.

The plan has run into other opposition from officers, who say the existing setup ensures traffic police can concentrate on traffic problems and won't be used as fill-ins on patrol.

Sgt. Cole Weston, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, has said he is concerned that precinct buildings are cramped.

Sheridan could not be reached for comment on McIntire's recommendation. He has said, however, that stationing traffic officers in the precincts will allow them to respond more quickly to accidents and other problems.

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