County officers to work in New York

3-day stints to provide relief for police there

October 03, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Because the officers all drive white patrol cars and wear blue uniforms, New York City residents might not notice that some of the police patrolling the city are from Anne Arundel County.

But Anne Arundel County police who leave this morning for the terrorism-torn city are expecting to see a big difference between their hometown turf and the temporary assignment in New York.

Eighteen officers who normally patrol strip shopping malls and suburban housing complexes will work among the skyscrapers and tenements for three nights.

As part of a volunteer mission designed to help relieve weary New York City police officers on regular overnight patrols, county police will work 10- to 12-hour shifts - rotating in groups of 18 during the next 10 days to two weeks.

The officers will be driving county patrol cars and will wear their county uniforms. But because the city is in state of emergency, they will have the same police powers they have in Maryland.

"I think people there are still so shellshocked that I don't think most people will notice the difference," said Detective Ricardo Hawkins, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70. "They just see white police cars and blue uniforms."

Since Sept. 11, police from around the country - from Fort Worth, Texas, to Baltimore - have worked shifts with New York City police.

Twenty-four officers from the Baltimore Police Department's tactical unit spent several days last week at the NYPD command post at the site of the World Trade Center.

They returned Saturday.

Anne Arundel officers - including Greg Speed, who has never been to New York City - say they're eager to go.

"We all just wanted to help," said Speed, who works on the Southern District tactical patrol team. "Everyone is ready. We want to do whatever we can. The officers up there need a break. We want to give them some time to be with their families."

Speed will be among the 15 officers, two sergeants and one lieutenant leaving today for New York. They will work three evening shifts beginning tonight before returning Saturday. The next volunteer group leaves Saturday, and another unit departs Tuesday.

Asked to help with security

Hawkins said county police have been asked to help primarily with security - possibly around the site of the former World Trade Center - and to escort emergency crews and dignitaries to and from the search site. But officers won't know until they get there how close they will be to the devastation.

"We may just be escorting groups over the bridges into Manhattan or into the financial district," said Hawkins. "We won't know exactly where they'll need us, but we're happy to help in whatever way they need us."

Some county officers may be paired with New York City officers. Others may be assigned to direct traffic. They won't know their duties until they meet today with New York City officials.

County police have their own officer shortage. However, many of the officers are going to New York on their days off and won't need replacements.

Other local officers will be reassigned from specialized units to help fill in, said Lt. Joseph Jordan, a department spokesman.

Sending the officers on three-day tours - rather than for the entire two weeks - decreased the number of scheduling conflicts. And, Jordan said, it gives more officers the opportunity to go.

`Officers wanted to help'

"So many of our officers wanted to help," he said.

The department will pay the officers' mileage. Several hotels near Central Park have donated rooms. Meals will likely be covered by the county's Police Foundation and the local Fraternal Order of Police, which started a relief fund Sept. 11 when people spontaneously starting giving money to help, Hawkins said.

He said that whatever money they don't use to supplement their mission will be donated to other relief funds. Proceeds from FOP sales of T-shirts will be donated to the New York Police and Fire Memorial Fund.

Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan and County Executive Janet S. Owens are expected to wish the police well as they leave today from county police headquarters in Millersville.

Later this week, Owens is scheduled to welcome home county firefighters who have been helping with rescue and recovery efforts at the Pentagon, World Trade Center and the airliner crash site in Pennsylvania.

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