Deal sought for police schedules

County executive says he's open to compromise

April 19, 2001|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said yesterday he is willing to seek a compromise on a proposal to rotate all three shifts at two additional police precincts, a plan that has run into strong opposition.

"We are going to sit down and talk" with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, Ruppersberger said. "These are issues we all need to sit down and work through."

Ruppersberger's conciliatory tone came as the FOP and some County Council members prepare to wage a campaign to block police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan's proposal. The plan would change the policy of assigning one group of officers to the overnight shift at the Towson and North Point precincts.

Instead, all officers and supervisors would rotate among the three eight-hour shifts. As a result, they would work a different shift every five days instead of every 15.

Two years ago, the Essex and Wilkens precincts went to a similar schedule, which the county had eliminated six years earlier because of concerns for officers' health.

Sheridan, who police officials say is irritated by the challenge to his proposal, would not comment yesterday. He referred all questions to police spokesman Bill Toohey.

Toohey said the change is needed because the current system is an "ongoing headache."

"Now the department has to deal with it," he said.

Toohey said commanders have difficulty finding enough volunteers to work the overnight shift, usually 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Toohey said the new shift rotation also would allow supervisors to manage officers better.

At Sheridan's request, Ruppersberger included money in his proposed 2001-2002 budget to hire 11 more supervisors to ensure proper oversight of the scheduling change. But the FOP and at least two County Council members have said they will work to have the money cut from the budget unless an alternate proposal is developed.

Opponents of the change are afraid the new schedule will harm officers' health and morale and cause seasoned officers to transfer to other precincts.

Their concerns were echoed by several officers from the Essex and Wilkens precincts, who asked not to be identified because of the department's rules about talking to the media. They say they are not able to attend school or work second jobs because they have to rotate among all three shifts.

Ruppersberger said he plans to meet with Sheridan and FOP officials in a few weeks to discuss the matter.

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