State police presence won't grow in Carroll

Baltimore & Region

December 07, 2005|By MARY GAIL HARE | MARY GAIL HARE,SUN REPORTER

Maryland State Police officials again told the Carroll County commissioners yesterday that they cannot increase their presence in the rapidly growing county, the only jurisdiction in the metropolitan area without its own law enforcement agency.

"We have no intention of removing ourselves, but the reality is you need more officers in Carroll County and you will have to turn to local agencies," said Lt. Col. M.J. Fischer, chief of field operations for the state police. "Our sworn personnel numbers have declined in a number of key counties that are growing rapidly and demanding law enforcement."

"The MSP has reached the max here," said Fischer, repeating a message delivered twice in the past two years. "We won't cut services, but we clearly cannot expand."

Carroll must begin planning for a transition to a local police force, most likely the Sheriff's Department, county officials said. Increasing the numbers of local officers would not equate to a decrease in state police presence, said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich.

"If we prepare for that day, it does not mean we are not kicking the state police out, but that we are working transitionally to make the most of our resources for as long as we can," he said. "The Sheriff's Department is ready."

Although Carroll County posts one of the lowest ratios of police to population in the nation, law enforcement officials routinely rate it the safest jurisdiction in Maryland. The state police barracks in Westminster includes 27 uniform officers and 52 resident troopers - five of whom are assigned full-time to the town of Mount Airy. The force also includes an undisclosed number of investigators.

"It is important for people to know that troopers have a place in Carroll County, but their role will change," said Commissioner Perry L. Jones. "We are trying to give the protection a growing population needs. Now is the time to make the transition."

The county pays $4.3 million annually for the resident troopers who patrol county roads, respond to calls in small, unincorporated communities and handle criminal investigations.

The commissioners need to create a policing plan that would address the realities of 2010 and beyond and decide whether the Sheriff's Department should be the local law enforcement agency, officials said. It costs the county $3 million annually for 69 sheriff's deputies, whose duties parallel those of the state police.

"We are comfortable with the Sheriff's Department," Fischer said. "The resident trooper program was never intended to be the main police force or to last this long."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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