70 officers vie for transfers to county force

Policy cutting time in training leads to influx of applications

Shortages elsewhere feared

November 29, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

About 70 officers from law enforcement agencies across the state have applied for jobs in Anne Arundel County's Police Department in the past month - taking advantage of a rare opportunity to transfer onto the force.

The influx of applications, which occurred after county police said that hires from other departments would not have to go through the county's police academy training, could help the department solve its staffing problem. But it also could increase shortages on other forces.

Judging by applications meeting the Nov. 26 postmark deadline, the Annapolis Police Department could be among the hardest-hit by transfers to the Arundel force. At least seven Annapolis officers from a 128- member force have applied, officials said. Annapolis' is short 22 officers.

Annapolis Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson said yesterday that he was confident many of his officers would reconsider leaving once the city improves health care and pension benefits.

Kimla Milburn, director of the city's human resources department, said its staff is researching benefit packages to present to the mayor-elect and city council when they take office in January.

Johnson said city police would be recruiting from high-tech firms laying off workers. In a time of recession, he said, departments should find recruiting easier.

"We won't have to steal from each other like we're doing now," Johnson said.

It's not that Johnson would begrudge the county for accepting officers who want to transfer for better benefits. "We plan to do the same thing," he said.

Johnson said he had received phone calls from Arundel Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan about the possibility of hiring away Annapolis officers.

Last month, Shanahan reversed his position and announced that officers hired from other police departments would not have to complete the county's 21- week training academy and 90 days of on-the-job training. The policy is known as "lateral transfers."

Although Shanahan said he prefers to hire new officers because they would go through the county's academy, he decided that the department would accept applications from transferring officers for a month because it is the quickest way to fill vacancies.

About 70 officers from 26 jurisdictions around the state - including more than a dozen Baltimore City officers - applied to transfer, county personnel officials said.

Arundel's force has 28 openings, plus a void left by 16 officers who have been called to active military duty, said Lt. Joseph E. Jordan, a county police spokesman.

"We're happy with the response," Jordan said. "We didn't have a set goal in mind, but with 28 vacancies, we hoped to receive as many applications as we could."

Officers transferring from other departments must pass a written exam next week, and then undergo interviews, background checks, physical and psychological exams.

Because officers who transfer from other departments are already certified by the state police training commission, they will be allowed to skip the academy course and instead complete a three-week orientation scheduled to begin in April.

Afterward, officers hired as lateral transfers would receive one month of on-the-job training.

"They're experienced officers," Jordan said. "The 30 days they're with other officers is mostly so they learn the lay of the land and how we do things here."

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