Anne Arundel Police Department to accept transfers

Shortage of officers leads to policy change

October 28, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County's Police Department doesn't just need officers. It needs them now.

As a result, Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan said last week the department will allow officers to transfer from other jurisdictions - a reversal of his earlier position.

The policy of allowing lateral transfers means officers may come to work for Anne Arundel County from another area without first attending a six-month training academy. Instead, they would attend several weeks of training on county police regulations and policies.

"There wasn't a need before now," Shanahan said Friday. "We prefer to hire people who are indoctrinated into the culture and value system of our community and our department. I prefer to put our officers through our academy. ... But with 15 officers being called into active military duty, in addition to the vacancies we already had, I re-evaluated our existing policy."

The department has not accepted lateral transfers since Shanahan became chief nearly three years ago. Even now, they will be accepted only through Nov. 26.

Police commanders say the transfers are a temporary fix until 20 recruits now in training at the county police academy graduate.

But with more than 40 vacancies on a force of 600 officers, Shanahan said allowing officers to transfer into the department is the quickest way to fill openings.

Officers who come from other departments are state-certified police officers, meaning they have met minimum requirements set by the Maryland Police Training Commission. Officers who transfer to Anne Arundel County must only take classes in local laws and reporting procedures and retrain in firearms and driving, police said.

The department is not having trouble maintaining staffing levels on the street or responding to priority 911 calls, Shanahan said, adding, "I want to stress there's not a emergency right now." But further activation of military re- serve and National Guard units could mean the county's loss of more officers called to active duty. Still others are scheduled to retire.

"The vacancies are starting to become a stress on us," said Shanahan.

The Fraternal Order of Police in Anne Arundel had been advocating the lateral transfer policy, arguing that it is the fastest way to get more officers on the street.

"These vacancies put an extra burden on our officers," said acting FOP Lodge 70 President Ricardo Hawkins. "Some of them are picking up three and four calls at one time. Some are responding to calls before their shifts even start and they're having to stay later."

Residents "are suffering, too," Hawkins said. "It may take an officer 45 minutes to respond to nonpriority calls. But when you come home from work and find your house broken into, 45 minutes is a long time to wait."

Transferring officers would lose their seniority and would have to work for the county department 20 years before becoming eligible to retire and collect a pension.

They also must go through the same screening and background checks as new hires, Shanahan said. Each candidate must meet physical requirements, and pass polygraph and psychological tests. And each officer's work history is reviewed, police said.

Although in many ways officers are starting over when they transfer to another department, officials expect to receive quite a few transfer applications.

"It's a great place to work," said Shanahan, who noted the county's take-home car program, salaries and benefits package as incentives for officers to transfer to Anne Arundel.

"They may live here or have grown up here," Shanahan said. "They may be working in communities that don't appreciate their police as much as our communities do. ... There are all kind of reasons."

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