Arundel chief defends delay on promotions

Revised personnel code allows Shanahan to seek larger field of candidates

April 20, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan defended yesterday his decision not to promote any sergeants to lieutenant, saying that by waiting six months he will be able to choose from more candidates.

The chief's decision to disregard the current list of sergeants who scored highest on written and oral exams was criticized immediately by union leaders, who are concerned that promotions will be dished out under what they called the "good-old-boy system."

Shanahan said he will hire lieutenants in the fall after another round of testing in September. Recent changes in county law allow him to choose from a larger pool of candidates.

"I'm the hiring authority for the Police Department, and I have to do what I believe is in the best interest of the citizens and the future of this agency," Shanahan said in an interview yesterday. "It would've been easier to promote from the smaller list, but it wouldn't have been the right thing to do."

Union leaders questioned the chief's motives because Shanahan will promote six officers to other ranks using the current list of candidates, which is based on tests administered by the county's personnel office.

"Rules should be applied evenly to everyone," said Sgt. Bryan Heger, vice president of the Anne Arundel County Sergeants Association.

Heger said that if there were sergeants who are not qualified to be promoted, the chief could have asked to remove their names from the promotional list once he "articulated a legitimate reason." Rejecting all candidates is unfair, Heger said.

Under the county's personnel code, which was revised in March, the chief may now ask for 10 candidates for each of the vacant lieutenant positions. "I want to make sure I have the ability to choose the most qualified candidates -- those who have broad backgrounds and different types of experience," Shanahan said.

In the meantime, the vacant spots will be filled temporarily by sergeants, the chief said.

Union leaders say residents have a stake in making sure county officials base promotions on the standardized tests. Otherwise, said county Fraternal Order of Police President O'Brien Atkinson, "There's a real opportunity to promote their friends and family rather than the most qualified employees."

Atkinson said the new promotional process might hamper the recruiting of candidates "who don't want to work in a department where they don't see they have a fair shot at a future."

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