Baltimore County police union to challenge firearms sale rule

Officials say officers who sell guns on side must choose between jobs


News from around the Baltimore region

July 07, 2005|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County police union has filed a challenge to a new department rule that bars officers from outside work involving the sale of firearms.

In a letter sent to the county's labor commissioner, the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police asserts the change should have been discussed with union representatives before it was implemented. The union is seeking to have the policy, which took effect June 7, repealed. Police officials have said that officers who have side employment selling guns must choose between those jobs and being a county police officer.

"We don't think any officer should be forced to make that decision," said Cole B. Weston, union president.

According to the complaint, the union wrote a letter in March to the county executive and the police chief demanding to bargain over the proposed rule change. The complaint alleges that the county executive and the police chief have refused negotiations. Bill Toohey, a Police Department spokesman, said he had not seen a copy of the complaint and could not comment.

The policy was drafted after police officials learned that the shotgun used in a fatal shooting in February at Towson Town Center was bought at The Gun Shop, which was owned by a county officer. County police said that the gun used in the slaying at the center's parking garage was legally bought and sold.

In 2000, a woman purchased a shotgun and ammunition for Joseph A. Palczynski at the same place on Eastern Boulevard in Essex, along with an assault rifle and ammunition from a Reisterstown shop, before Palczynski went on a two-week rampage that left four people dead.

A spokesman for what was then the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said in 2000 that the stores did nothing illegal in selling the guns that ended up in Palczynski's hands, although the Essex woman was convicted of purchasing the guns for Palczynski, who was a convicted felon.

The Gun Shop is owned by Officer Robert L. Warnick II and previously was owned by his father, Officer Robert L. Warnick, according to Toohey. Both are Baltimore County police officers in the Essex precinct. Neither could be reached yesterday.

Officers who are affected by the policy are being given about six months to comply, Toohey said. The policy applies to more than 1,800 sworn officers but police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan has said that only a handful of officers likely are affected.

Now that the union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint, the county's labor commissioner, George E. Gay, will choose a third-party arbitrator and schedule a hearing within the next month to six weeks.

After the hearing, the arbitrator can either dismiss the complaint or order the police to repeal the policy, Gay said.

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