Saying they are stretched too thin and face problems with a new dispatch and reporting system, Anne Arundel County police supervisor unions are blaming the administration for a situation they say is taking a toll on them and public safety.
Two supervisors unions released a list of problems Friday that they say are putting the department on "the verge of crisis." The sergeants and lieutenants groups previously voted no confidence in County Executive John R. Leopold and police Chief James Teare Sr.
The unions contend the department's leadership — "especially" Leopold — has led to "a deterioration of public safety," and say that police fear a rise in crime, according to a prepared statement Friday.
Overall, the two supervisory unions say the administration has reduced the force in the face of a growing population, leaving the department short on resources, including investigators.
The sentiments come as public safety union officials expect an impasse in contract negotiations with the county after cuts in previous years, and as the Leopold administration prepares its next budget.
Leopold spokesman Dave Abrams said the sour national economy has not spared Anne Arundel County government and noted that crime has fallen.
"The county executive has made it very clear that when our fiscal picture improves, public safety will be a priority," Abrams said.
A six-page explanation of the sergeants' and lieutenants' concerns, coming from their parent group, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, says statistics point to troubling changes in crime. The number of assaults with handguns jumped from 64 in 2009 to 97 in 2010, the statement says.
Overall, department numbers show an 11.1 percent drop in crime from 2006 to 2010, the last year for which figures are available, and an upward nudge in violent crime from 2009 to 2010.
The department had 666 police positions in 2001. The number is now 655, though 24 jobs are vacant. Police say they are hurting because of positions that went unfilled as the economy declined and from the elimination two years ago of 37 positions. During roughly the same period of time, the county's population increased by about 10 percent.
The unions say some glitches in a new $6.6 million dispatch and reporting system could have been avoided or mitigated if they had been included in its development and rollout. The dispatch side was pulled offline at Christmas because of safety concerns.
Teare was unavailable for comment. Maj. Thomas Wilson, supervisor of patrol services, said police are "doing an incredible job" in tough times. He said the agency is considering changes in the reporting system.
Administrative services supervisor Maj. Pam Davis said the dispatch system will be revived once problems have been fixed and new training is completed. More training in reporting also will take place, she said.